Poor, low-income families facing a dark, cold winter


"It was the best of times; it was the worst of times; it was the age of wisdom; it was the age of foolishness; it was the epoch of belief; it was the epoch of incredulity; it was the season of Light; it was the season of Darkness; it was the spring of hope; it was the winter of despair; we had everything before us; we had nothing before us; we were all going directly to Heaven; we were all going the other way."

This year, we feel Charles Dickens’ famous words all too much.

Foreclosures, bankruptcies, and unemployment seem to be the staple of daily news. Economic crisis has hit the world, country and state. Costs of the basic necessities of life—food, clothing, utilities and health care—continue to rise. Rhode Island is a national leader in unemployment and with no end in sight. Tough times always call for sacrifice, but for Catholics they call also for solidarity.

Thousands of Rhode Islanders face a cold winter with no electricity or heat. High costs for heating oil and natural gas are predicted for the coming cold winter months. Assistance from the federal or state government cannot be counted upon as both face huge budget deficits amidst a failing economy. This situation is quite perilous for families that cannot afford to heat their homes during the cold winter months. Bishop Tobin is again calling upon Rhode Island’s many Catholics to join his campaign to provide heating assistance for those in need by supporting the “Keep the Heat On” program.

Once again, the Diocese of Providence is offering a program that provides heating assistance for struggling families who have no other means to pay overdue utility bills. Since it was established in 2005, “Keep the Heat On” has provided more than $1 million in heating assistance to more than 3,600 Rhode Island families through grants from the Catholic diocese and private contributions.

The news has not been good for many poor and low-income families across the state with only looming darkness and cold ahead in the winter. Many of these families will have their heat and electricity shut off as they choose between buying food, getting needed prescriptions, filling the gas tank or paying high utility bills.

The “Keep the Heat On” Campaign provides an opportunity for Catholics and all people of good will to truly help their neighbors in need. It may mean making extraordinary sacrifices in order to lend a helping hand or give a generous donation to the program. It certainly means solidarity with the poor is needed now more than ever.

Indeed, as Dickens suggested so long ago, it is the worst of times and the best of times. The worst of times for those who are suffering in need and poverty, but the best of times as their brothers and sisters come forward in solidarity to support them. It is time to let the light of charity replace the darkness of poverty and need. Sacrifice and solidarity are needed to “Keep the Heat On” this year so please join the effort with your generous donation today.