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Fund Helps Those In Need Stay Warm

SalvationArmySPRINGFIELD (WGGB) — As temperatures drop, the cost to stay warm rises. That’s why the Salvation Army has a program to help folks pay their heating bills.

Since 1985, the organization has administered the Massachusetts Good Neighbor Energy Fund. It’s money used to assist those in need – people who don’t qualify for state and federal programs – pay for heat.

“We’re definitely busy. We’re getting calls every day,” said Danielle LaTaille, Director of Social Services at the Salvation Army in Springfield. ”The phone does not stop ringing. We’re booked until February 1st of this year and this week will bring in another set of weeks if not months of scheduled appointments.”

Last year, More than 1,800 Massachusetts families received help from the fund. This year, the need may be even greater. With the temperatures regularly dipping to well below freezing and many families in crisis due to illness or job loss, the Salvation Army expects the number of applicants to increase steadily… with perhaps as many as 5,000 families requesting aid.

“There’s really no set family for the program. It’s anyone who qualifies,” explained LaTaille. “And we just find that all walks of people are struggling with their gas, electric and oil bills around these times  because they are increasing pretty steadily if not rapidly.”

That’s why, since the very beginning, some 27 years ago, Western Mass Electric Company has supported the Good Neighbor Energy program. To date, the fund has raised about $18.3 million with WMECO and its customers together raising more the $130,000 since 2010 alone.

“I think that WMECO is deeply dedicated to its customers,” said Priscilla Ress of WMECO. “That is one of the tenants of the company, so they are proud to be a part of any sort of a program that helps keep people warm throughout the winter.”

The goal this year is to raise about $650,000 and the Salvation Army would like to  help more than 2000 families keep the heat on. But once the money is gone so is the program for the season.

“We will go as long as the program is available to us and the community,” said LaTaille.

If you’d like to help support the Good Neighbor Energy Fund, you can find a donation envelope as an insert in your monthly energy bill or online through the ‘Add-A-Dollar’ program on many of the energy company’s websites.