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Energy assistance for low-income families a vital resource in Johnson County

By Teresa P. Crowder
Freelance Writer

The occasional power outage, which is notably common in mountainous towns, leaves many changing their plans for the moment, the evening or a day or so.
Some make alternative meal plans, lite candles, grab flashlights, locate extra blankets and get creative with how to pass the time.
However, such an event, we know, is temporary. At any time, in any home in the county, a family, a couple, or elderly individual may experience this as a common occurrence.
Teresa Fox and Karen Canter at the Neighborhood Service Center know just how to help community members in need of assistance with several resources, from providing food to heat assistance. The LIHEAP (Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program) Energy Assistance Program provided by UETHDA is designed to help those in need of regular or crisis assistance.
According to the UETHDA 2020-2021 Annual Report, 979 regular and 25 crisis applications were submitted and processed, providing energy assistance. The organization is part of the Upper East Tennessee Human Development Agency.
As recent as October 1, 2021, to December 31, 2021, more than 700 households in Johnson County were receiving assistance through this program. About half of these households own their own homes, and most of these homes are single-person dwellings receiving Social Security benefits.
Different programs have different requirements for how often clients can re-apply. Because of the excellent staff that works in the Johnson County Neighborhood Service Center and their connections in the community, “everyone who seeks our services and do not meet our qualification, staff work diligently to connect them with what limited resources there are in the community though referrals and advocacy,” said Community Services Manager Martha Dixon. “It is a privilege to serve our neighbors in Johnson County.
They are good, good people. They are always so grateful for any assistance we can give them. There are many tears’ stains in our office – ones that speak of great need and desperation, and many, many tear stains of gratitude from these real, struggling neighbors. The need in the community is great, and we are grateful to do all we can to assist.”
Dixon emphasized that the staff “work every day to fulfill our mission of “helping, people and changing lives. We are just as grateful to get to help folks in the community as the residents are when their pain is made easier by the assistance we get to give to them.”
For more information on the LIHEAP Energy Assistance Program and other services provided by Upper East Tennessee Development Agency, visit uethda.org or call 423-246-6180.