Heating Fund gears up for another winter
By Paula WalterSince its inception in the winter months of 2008-2009, the Johnson County Emergency Heating Fund for Seniors has been instrumental in raising monies that have made a positive impact on the lives of local people in need. The organization has raised more than $58,000 in the past three years due to the generosity of fellow Johnson Countians through donations and fundraisers that has allowed them to provide heating assistance for seniors.
The realization that a local heating fund for seniors was needed was first conceived when Bill Brookshire of Johnson County Bank expressed his concern to fellow Johnson Countian, Gwen Bell, as to the number of seniors who were having difficulty paying their heating bills. From that discussion, the organization was initially formed under the umbrella of the Johnson County Republican Women. Today, teams of volunteers, from all political persuasions and from all corners of the county lend a helping hand to raise funds that directly impacts people within the county.
A board of six people, headed by Bell, runs the non-profit organization. They meet five to six times a year to review the finances of the organization and plan future fundraisers. In the past, the Johnson County Emergency Heating Fund for Seniors has held a prime rib dinner, fish fry, barbeque, a Mother’s Day brunch, a Christmas gathering, along with several raffles and auctions. Along with fundraising, the group received a $1,500 grant from the Johnson County Community Foundation and is slated to receive $2,000 from this organization for the winter of 2012-2013. They have also been approved to receive $1,000 from the United Way for 2013. Johnson County Bank continues to be the fund’s largest contributor. A donation of $600 was also presented to the organization from the Christmas Trees on Main Street effort in December of 2011. Local businesses, banks and churches continue to generously donate funds that allow the group to have enough money on hand to assist those in need. “This is a community effort,” said Bell.
In its first year, the Johnson County Emergency Heating Fund for Seniors helped 67 individuals. In the second year, 60 seniors received assistance and with a milder winter last year, 42 people received aid. There are no administrative costs for the organization. Over the three-year period, $34,430 was spent on kerosene, $5,170 on propane, $9,979 on electricity costs, $1,200 on wood, $100 to help toward repairs and $210 for coal. According to Bell, the heating fund currently only has about one-half of the money she anticipates the group will need this winter. She is concerned that the expected rise in fuel due to the unrest in the Middle East, along with the forecast of a rough winter, will quickly drain the reserve they will carry into the winter months. “We have to be ready,” she said.
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