FARMINGTON — Hollywood stars were in the air on a recent Friday evening as more than 250 turned out for the Warm Hearts-Warm Homes Benefit Dance at North Dining Hall, UMF. They came in all ages, from early teens to seniors. They came dressed to the nines in gowns and tuxedos, or as Hollywood characters. They came to break out of the cabin fever we all suffer from this time of year. They came to hear the Mt. Blue Voices and to watch the Teachers’ Lounge Mafia perform. They came to enjoy the music of Shepherd’s Pie and to dance the night away. And they came for the cause — to help raise more money for the Franklin County Ecumenical Heating Fund, also known as ECU HEAT. The goal was to raise $5,000. The total after expenses was $5,180.
With a matching grant of $5,000 from the Sandy River Charitable Foundation, the Warm Hearts-Warm Homes Benefit Dance raised more than $10,000 in one fantastic evening.
Local band Shepherd’s Pie started this back in December by sending out an email to the ECU HEAT coordinator about wanting to hold a benefit dance. A few very creative and compassionate people came together to help plan a mid-winter extravaganza. In one month, the dance committee sold VIP tables, posted signs and generated a lot of excitement for the project.
A basket raffle was held for hand-crafted items made by Warming Center participants, who wanted to “give back.” Strips of raffle tickets were sold, generating $230 worth of revenue for ECU HEAT. Displayed behind the basket raffle and donation tables was a mural created by participants of the Warming Centers featuring facts about ECU HEAT and true stories of some of the families who have been blessed by an ECU HEAT fuel delivery, when they had absolutely nowhere else to turn.
With federal LIHEAP assistance at less than half what it was a year ago, many people are struggling.
Since the heating season began on Nov. 1, ECU HEAT has provided 50-gallon fuel deliveries to 152 households in Franklin County, at a cost of nearly $34,000. In addition to the allocation received from United Way of the Tri-Valley, all funds are raised by churches, individual donations, from business and service organization contributions.
The number of households needing assistance (only one delivery per household per heating season) is expected to double before the close of the heating season on March 31. Anyone wishing to make a donation may send a check to ECU HEAT, P.O. Box 147, Farmington, ME 04938. Contributions are tax-deductible and will be acknowledged. The number to call for fuel assistance is 645-3764, ext. 5523.