Many R.I. households grateful for diocesan heating assistance program


PROVIDENCE — Spring in the Ocean State has been always unpredictable — making the popular quotation, “if you don’t like the weather in New England now, just wait a few minutes,” — ring even more true. The month of April saw snow and continued cold temperatures, and now with near record high temps, the diocesan heating program “Keep the Heat On” wraps up its recent winter season of assisting families in great need pay their heating costs.

This year, the program provided a total of $257,103.61 in oil, natural gas and electricity assistance. Over the past 13 years the program has provided $2,928,499 in aid.

“Once again, I am deeply grateful to all those who supported our diocesan ‘Keep the Heat On’ program,” said Bishop Thomas J. Tobin. “It has become a valuable and dependable resource for our community, but we couldn’t do it without our very generous supporters.”

“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.

For families like Otoniel Andres and his wife Natalia Zapata who live with their two young children, the diocesan program offers much-needed respite amid the financial strain of paying the bills during New England’s unpredictable winters.

“We felt grateful for having that help there. Anything that can help us, we’re grateful,” said Andres.

This year’s program kicked off with a major donation of $100,000 from National Grid Foundation. On January 2, Michael Ryan, director of government affairs for National Grid Rhode Island, and Ed White, executive director of the National Grid Foundation, presented Bishop Tobin and Jim Jahnz, diocesan coordinator for emergency services, with the generous donation. This year marks the organization’s fifth major donation to “Keep the Heat On” since 2014, when the foundation began an annual tradition of supporting diocesan efforts to provide emergency heating assistance to families and individuals in need throughout Rhode Island. The contribution also marks an increase from last year’s $80,000 donation.

Other funding came from the Catholic Charity Appeal and from other donors, many whose donations were made in memory of loved ones.

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. On Friday mornings in December, student council members at St. Margaret School in East Providence helped start the day off right, and for a good cause, by selling hot cocoa to students to benefit Bishop Tobin’s “Keep the Heat On” program. In an effort to raise awareness of the needs of the homeless, five Prout School students recently participated in a Sleep-Out and also contributed to the fund. One student said, “One night outside was tough; I cannot imagine having to do that every night.”

“Keep the Heat On” continues to have an immense impact on the lives of Rhode Islanders during this heating season, explained Jahnz, who added that once again, the state-wide community truly stepped up to help make the program a success.

“When Rhode Islanders are forced to make difficult decisions in determining if they should put their money towards food and rent or towards heat, “Keep the Heat On” has been able to lessen that burden and make life’s struggle a little easier,” he said. “Through the past thirteen years, Rhode Islanders know that they can turn to “Keep the Heat On” and the Diocese of Providence when they have nowhere else to go.”