WOONSOCKET — “Keep the Heat On,” the diocesan heating assistance program, regularly offers emergency payments of heating oil and other cold-weather utilities to families in need around the state. Families are grateful for the help received, and for one recent recipient of a “Keep the Heat On” oil donation, it’s all about giving back.
Angelique Velsor is no stranger to reaching out to those in need. A nurse, mother and grandmother, she has spent most of her life taking care of others. For her, offering care is part of her professional calling as well as her everyday routine.
“When I decided to be a nurse, it’s because I wanted to make a difference and help someone,” she said during a recent interview in the dining room of her Woonsocket home.
Velsor worked for many years in various nursing facilities, most recently at Oakland Grove Health Center in Woonsocket. However, health problems arising from decades of working on her feet forced her into early retirement. She has had five operations in recent years, including hip replacement surgery, and is currently recovering from a fall.
“You don’t realize when you’re standing on your feet for 40 years passing meds and taking care of patients,” she said. “There’s no way I could stand for eight hours now. If I sat here all day and thought about everything I can’t do, I’d go crazy.”
Despite being out of work, Velsor still finds her day busy with responsibilities. Over the years, she has raised three children and two grandchildren, one of whom, 20-year-old George, still lives with her. George has cerebral palsy, and Velsor spends much of her time trying to get him the services he needs.
“I can’t even tell you how many phone calls I make a day to facilitate stuff,” she said. “It’s very difficult here in Rhode Island.”
George wants to go to college for music production and is looking to apply to local universities, but Velsor said they’re having trouble finding one that offers a full range of disability services.
“It’s a battle every day to get stuff done for him,” she said. “It’s always been about advocating for the kids.”
Over the past several years, Velsor has had trouble paying the full cost of her heating and electric bills. She first learned about “Keep the Heat On” in 2009 after contacting Family Resources Community Action, who suggested she reach out to the Diocese of Providence. She applied to the program and received a delivery of 100 gallons of heating oil that first year.
“It doesn’t take long for the money you have put away to go when you’re sick,” she said.
Last year’s snow storms were especially tough on the family. Despite a medical exception intended to protect them from a sudden loss of utilities, the family’s gas was shut off and they had to rely on portable space heaters to keep the house warm. This year, when things began to get tough, Velsor dug out the phone number for “Keep the Heat On” and received another oil shipment.
“It’s a godsend, it’s a blessing,” she said. “You give and get back.”
When she’s not looking after her own family, Velsor reaches out to help others in need in the community, especially during the cold winter months. This year, she began a project with her friends to deliver basic supplies to the homeless living in Woonsocket and Providence. They filled gallon Ziploc “Blessing Bags” with toiletries, hats, gloves, socks and food items and distributed them to individuals on the streets or in shelters throughout the two cities. For Velsor, making an effort to care for others is an integral part of how she lives, even when her own resources are slim.
“You pay things forward and help somebody, even if you don’t have what you used to have,” she said. “If everybody did something to help, maybe it would be a little better.”
She expects her current oil supply to last her through the rest of the winter, especially if the warm weather spell holds up, and is glad for others’ sake that the snow has mostly held off. In her life, she says, she’s been fortunate enough to receive help when she needed it, and looks to help others in return.
“If you can make a difference and do something, then when you need help, somebody’s there,” she said.
To see a list of donors to ‘Keep the Heat on,’ see page 9.