Warming hearts and homes: 'Keep the Heat On' begins 14th season

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JOHNSTON — Bishop Thomas J. Tobin kicked off the 14th season of his “Keep the Heat On” initiative by presenting a check for $5,000 to a Rhode Island veteran’s organization so that it can assist more local veterans in need of heating assistance.

The bishop visited the headquarters of Operation Stand Down RI, an organization that offers needed resources for homeless and at-risk veterans such as food, clothing, temporary housing, employment training and placement, on Wednesday, Nov. 7, for the presentation.

“Our faith tells us that love of God and love of neighbor are very closely connected,” Bishop Tobin said. “And love of God and love of neighbor result in very tangible actions which show us how much we do love God and care for one another, and that’s certainly the inspiration for the “Keep the Heat On” campaign. We want to provide heating assistance for individuals in our community who have nowhere else to turn during the winter and provide heating assistance for them.”

This year, as the nation pauses to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the ending of World War I, the diocese, through its “Keep the Heat On” program, wanted to pay tribute to those who wear the uniform.

“We wanted to honor in a very special way our veterans who have served our nation so well, with so much dignity and care and sacrifice,” Bishop Tobin said.

Erik B. Wallin, Captain USAF (Fmr.), who serves as executive director and general counsel of Operation Stand Down RI, received the $5,000 donation from the diocesan heating program to help support its efforts in keeping veterans safe and warm.

“I want to thank the Diocese of Providence, Bishop Tobin and all who support their charitable work,” Wallin said. “Our veterans go off and fight in very difficult conditions all across the globe and when they have come home after finishing their service we at Operation Stand Down want to make sure they have a home and we want to make sure they have food, but they should certainly not be in a situation in which they are in their homes cold and freezing.

“They need the opportunity to push forward and it is necessary for them to have a safe and habitable home and heat is certainly part of that. A lot of our veterans come to us looking for food, looking for assistance, not for a handout, but for a hand up. And really putting some oil in a tank and getting the electricity up and going and keeping the family healthy and warm is very important to getting them back on the road to pursuing the American Dream that they fought and defended,” Wallin said.

He said that the funds would be earmarked to help veterans with utility assistance and that Operation Strand Down helps about 100 veterans and their families a year with requests for heating assistance.

“This is not a need that’s simply isolated to the winter, we get calls year round,” Wallin said.

Jim Jahnz, program coordinator for “Keep the Heat On,” said that since the program was founded in the diocese in 2005 it has raised more than $2.95 million to help more than 13,000 Rhode Island families and individuals with nowhere else to turn to keep warm during the winter.

Funding for the program comes from the Catholic Charity Appeal and generous donations from parishes, businesses and individuals.

“We are very pleased by the success of “Keep the Heat On,” over the years,” Bishop Tobin said.

“That’s really made a difference for people and we’re so grateful for all of those who’ve supported “Keep the Heat On” over the years and we pray that they will be generous once again this year. It really does make a difference. It warms our homes with heating assistance and it also warms our hearts knowing that so many people care for those in need.”

Following the check presentation, Bishop Tobin turned to Jahnz and handed him a check representing his own personal donation to “Keep the Heat On.”

“I’m pledging $50 for every Steeler victory this year,” the native Pittsburgher said of his favorite football team. “I was going to do that for the Patriots but I couldn’t afford it,” he joked.