12th annual 'Keep the Heat On' campaign kicks off with donation from Emmanuel House residents

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PROVIDENCE — The Diocese of Providence kicked off the 12th annual “Keep the Heat On” campaign during a ceremony at its Emmanuel House homeless shelter on Monday morning, launching another season of providing emergency heating assistance to Rhode Island families who would otherwise go without through the cold winter months.

“It’s really become a very important and successful program for our diocese, for our Church and for the whole community,” Bishop Thomas J. Tobin told the crowd gathered at the diocesan shelter, which included residents and former residents of Emmanuel House as well as shelter Director Dottie Perreault and diocesan Emergency Services Coordinator James Jahnz.

“Through the first 11 years of “Keep the Heat On,” we have contributed approximately two-and-a-half million dollars to approximately 10,000 households throughout Rhode island, so it’s a wonderful program that really does make a difference for families, individuals and children so that they can manage to have some heating assistance to keep warm during the midst of the very cold winters.”

“Keep the Heat On” was launched by Bishop Tobin in 2005 as an emergency program that provides heating and utility assistance to families who have exhausted all other forms of public and private aid. Individuals eligible for assistance through the program receive one-time grants or shipments of heating oil to meet immediate needs during times of crisis, often during the coldest months of winter when supplies of heating oil can run low.

“We’re very grateful to everyone who has supported this over the years,” said Bishop Tobin. “It does really make a difference for our community.”

During this season of giving, Monday’s ceremony included an especially touching presentation by residents and former residents of Emmanuel House, who took up a collection among themselves to express their thanks to the diocese and give back to their neighbors by donating to the “Keep the Heat On” campaign. John Butler, a former resident who spent time living at Emmanuel House when he was getting back on his feet and now works part-time at the shelter, presented the check to Bishop Tobin.

“I just feel grateful for what they did for me,” he told Rhode Island Catholic following the ceremony, explaining his desire to give back to the community through the diocesan program.

Butler and several other residents present at Monday’s ceremony raised some of the funds donated through their work with Anubis LTD, an entertainment contractor that hires residents of the shelter for part-time and seasonal work through a partnership with Emmanuel House. Joe Patenaude, a representative of the company who also presented a donation on Monday, explained how he first became acquainted with the shelter through a friend and has enjoyed his work with the residents over the years.

“There’s a bunch of great guys here,” he said. “I’ve made some great friends and met some great people.”

Perreault said the partnership has had a positive impact on the men, many of whom use their time working with the company to gain experience and references when applying for other jobs. Anubis LTD provides staging services for Gillette Stadium and other venues and often hires shelter residents to assist with setting up and breaking down large events.

“Definitely a big change in a lot of them,” said Perreault. “And it teaches them social skills too. They get to eat together, play together, work together. It gives them more confidence back. It gives them the confidence to apply for other jobs.”

Speaking with Rhode Island Catholic following the ceremony, Jahnz expressed how incredible he found it to see individuals who have benefitted from one diocesan program giving back to another. With the help of the donation from residents, and with requests for assistance already coming in as outside temperatures drop, Jahnz said he anticipates the total number of families assisted through “Keep the Heat On” will reach 11,000 within the next few weeks.

“This is the program individuals and families turn to when they have nowhere else to go,” he said. “We’re the program they turn to when they have no option between a cold house and a warm house.”

Jahnz also announced that the diocese will once again be accepting donations through the Text-to-Give program, a giving option launched last year that allows mobile device users to make an instant donation of $10 or $25 through their cell phone provider.

“Text-to-give was a very popular method of giving to the program and we’re going to continue that,” he said.

If you would like to help local families this winter, please send tax-deductible donations to: “Keep the Heat On,” One Cathedral Square, Providence, RI 02903. A text donation of $10 can also be made by texting the word HEAT to 27722 or a $25 donation by texting the word HEATRI to 27722. If you or someone you know is in need of assistance, please visit the website at www.heatri.com or call 401-421-7833 for additional information.