PAWTUCKET — The Diocese of Providence launched the 11th annual “Keep the Heat On” campaign at St. Raphael Academy on Monday, kicking off another year of the heating assistance program that has provided nearly $2.3 million in utilities payments to more than 9,600 households statewide since its inception in 2005.
The launch ceremony took place in the school’s Navigant Credit Union Gallery, Joseph and Blanche Coutu Theater, where students joined Bishop Thomas J. Tobin, diocesan Emergency Services Coordinator Jim Jahnz, Principal Daniel Richard and school chaplain Father Carl Fisette in kicking off the new year.
“It’s hard to believe we’ve already had 10 successful years under our belt,” said Bishop Tobin. “[‘Keep the Heat On’] has made a difference not just for Catholics but for the community.”
Over the past decade, “Keep the Heat On” has relied on grants from the Catholic Charity Fund Appeal as well as generous donations from individuals, parishes and businesses to continue meeting the basic need of heat for families who have exhausted all other forms of public and private assistance.
This year, the diocese introduces a new way to donate, a Text-to-Give initiative that allows individuals to make small donations via their cell phone providers without the hassle of paperwork, mailings or credit cards.
“We hope that this new initiative will help increase donations for this very important program,” said Bishop Tobin. “I pray that the Rhode Island community will again support this worthy effort to help those in need keep the heat on this winter.”
Emma Mendes, a junior at St. Raphael Academy, demonstrated the Text-to-Give method by making an initial donation from her cell phone during Monday’s ceremony. Mobile device users simply text HEAT to 27722 to donate $10 or HEATRI to 27722 to donate $25. Individuals will then receive a message confirming their donation and be billed through their cell phone provider. The entire process takes no more than a few seconds.
“It really is that easy,” said Jahnz, who added that he still expects checks from individuals and parishes to comprise a major part of the campaign’s donated funds. “We’ll certainly still rely on traditional giving,” he said. “We’ve been very fortunate to have parishes and parishioners bring the heat to individuals with nowhere else to turn.”
Keeping the heat on might be a difficult goal to imagine for some Rhode Islanders as the state experiences a spell of mild weather and last week’s temperatures in Providence tied record highs. However, Bishop Tobin urged individuals around the state to remember the brutal temperature drops during New England winters and reflect on the program’s impact during the colder months that are sure to come.
“To really appreciate “Keep the Heat On,” think about last winter,” he said. “Keep the Heat On” made a difference during that long stretch of really terrible weather last year.”
For Jahnz, the appeal of supporting “Keep the Heat On” lies in the program’s ability to meet a basic need shared by all who live in the region and alleviate a source of stress experienced by anyone who has ever opened a utility bill during the winter months.
“I think the program resonates well with people throughout the state,” he said. “Everyone has or knows someone who has experienced difficult times. Heating is truly a basic need. To know that neighbors are going without is very difficult. That certainly promotes the generosity.”
Last winter, “Keep the Heat On” provided more than $300,000 in heating assistance to more than 1,600 households, with donations received from nearly 800 individuals. Jahnz hopes the Text-to-Give initiative will increase the number of donors by making small electronic donations an easy and accessible option for anyone who owns a mobile device.
“I think it’s a very exciting prospect. It’s something that we’ve seen around the country and it is a proven way to successfully fundraise,” he said. “It’s something that brings us to the forefront of modern giving.”
Those wishing to make a donation by check can mail to “Keep the Heat On,” One Cathedral Square, Providence, Rhode Island 02903, or visit www.heatri.com and use the secure Web server for credit card donations. Rhode Islanders who need heating assistance may call 401-421-7833 ext. 207 or log onto www.heatri.com for additional information or to apply online. Applicants must demonstrate ineligibility for other federal, state and private assistance. All inquiries are confidential.