PROVIDENCE — As spring finally starts to bring warmer days to the Ocean State, the diocesan heating program “Keep the Heat On” wraps up its 11th winter season of assisting families in great need pay their heating costs.
This year, the program provided a total of $149,671 in oil, natural gas and electricity assistance. Over the past 11 years the program has provided more than $2 million in aid.
“Once again, I am very grateful to all those who generously supported the ‘Keep the Heat On’ campaign in the Diocese,” said Bishop Thomas J. Tobin. “By providing heating assistance for people in need, it has contributed to the health, safety and comfort of thousands of our neighbors. It is truly a house-warming and heart-warming ministry.”
“Keep the Heat On” began as an initiative by Bishop Tobin to assist Rhode Islanders who’ve exhausted all other public and private forms of assistance meet the rising costs of heating their homes. The success of this program depends greatly on those who generously give, not just in the winter months, but throughout the year.
Robert Brown of Bristol said his budget is stretched tighter during the winter months, when the cost of oil heating adds significantly to regular expenses. During the past two winters, Brown has contacted the diocesan Office of Community Services and Catholic Charities and received emergency heating assistance when his oil tank ran low after he was unable to pay his heating bill.
“It’s tough every year, even this year it’s tough,” he said. “I try to go for as long as I can and keep the heat as long as I can. You worry about pipes freezing, single digits, which is sad, it’s just creating more and more problems.”
According to climate reports from the National Center for Environmental Information, Rhode Islanders saw record warm temperatures from December 2015 – February 2016, but they also felt record breaking cold as well. On Valentine’s Day, temps fell as low as -9 degrees, the coldest since Jan. 22, 1984. But despite the mostly mild winter, 1,089 households still required emergency heating and utility assistance.
Keep the Heat On” continues to have an immense impact on the lives of Rhode Islanders during this heating season, said Jim Jahnz, diocesan coordinator for emergency services.
“This program remains there to help when the unemployed parent, the elderly neighbor and the working poor have no other place to turn for help,” he explained. “Keep the Heat On” is a well-known and valued program at this point and is crucial to those who need help.”
This year’s program kicked off with a major donation of $100,000 from National Grid Foundation as well as a personal donation from Bishop Tobin as he does every year. Other funding came from the Catholic Charity Appeal and from many other donors.
The giving continued throughout the season thanks to students who raised funds through school-wide dress down days and parishes that held special fundraisers for the program. In November, Holy Family parish in Woonsocket offered an Interfaith Thanksgiving service to benefit “Keep the Heat On” and in December, the Gregorian Concert Choir and Festival Orchestra, led by Msgr. Anthony Mancini, with Philip Faraone as organist, held a concert entitled “The Sounds of the Season,” at the cathedral, an event that raised $6,900.00.
“The response to the “Keep the Heat On” appeal has been great,” said Jahnz. “[The donations] are so impactful and allow us to help so many more people. It truly takes the generosity of so many to help those households in need. The recipients of assistance remain incredibly thankful. In many cases, “Keep the Heat On” is the difference for a household having or not having heat during the winter’s sub-freezing weather.”
See page 8 for a list of recent donors.