'America has a heartbeat:' Donations pour in for home heat

DIXFIELD — A New York Times article spurred the nation to warm not only homes in Maine but the heart of an oil company owner.

Erin Cox/Sun Journal

Ike Libby, right, stands with his wife, Shirley, center, and friend Nancy Carpenter, left, as Janis Carlton sits behind the desk at Hometown Energy fielding calls about donations for heating assistance. The company was flooded with calls from around the nation after an article in the New York Times featured the business and a struggling Maine couple.

Erin Cox/Sun Journal

Shirley Libby, an employee at Hometown Energy and wife of owner Ike Libby, talks Saturday with an anonymous person wanting to donate money to a heating assistance trust set up after an overwhelming response from a New York Times article.

Erin Cox/Sun Journal

Robert and Wilma Hartford sit in their warm home in Peru in awe of the overwhelming response from a New York Times article that featured them. The couple struggles to make ends meet on $1,200 a month and were left to go without heating oil.

Ike Libby, owner of Hometown Energy in Dixfield, was featured in a Saturday article in the New York Times about the struggle Mainers face in heating their homes during difficult times.

After the article was published, Libby and his office were flooded with calls from around the nation from people wanting to make donations.

"We've had calls from Laguna Beach, Calif., Georgia, Oregon, Wisconsin," he said. "Just everywhere."

The total for Saturday was close to six figures, Libby said. Hometown Energy plans to set up a trust fund to help those who are having difficulty heating their homes.

Libby has been delivering oil most of his life. Eight years ago, he opened Hometown Energy with Gene Ellis, a Dixfield resident and owner of Ellis' Variety.

Employees said Libby has always had a big heart and has difficulty saying no to customers who could not pay their bills.

"We just answer the phones in the office," employee Janis Carlton said. "Ike's the one who has to go to these homes and see how desperate these folks are."

The article focused on a couple from Peru, Wilma and Robert Hartford, who struggled to fill their tank.

The Hartfords, who are disabled and retired, must survive on $1,200 a month. They went to Libby and offered the title to their car until payment could be made on their heating bill.

Carlton contacted her mother, Diane Carlton, who is also an employee, and agreed to pay for 50 gallons of heating oil. Later in the week, Libby delivered 100 gallons more to the couple, Robert Hartford said.

"Its tough to tell somebody you can't bring them oil," Libby said. "We have been in business for eight years and we are further in the hole than when we started."

Libby often tries to help those that he can. He will make small deliveries, wave service fees or set up payment plans that often leave his checkbook empty.

"He didn't even know us," Hartford said. "He just has a heartbeat beyond most people."

The Hartfords were also receiving donations throughout the day Saturday, including having their house winterized by Josh Wojcik of Upright Frameworks.

"We just did an interview," Hartford said. "We thought it would get printed and that was it."

Hartford said this is more of what America needs: people helping each other.

Dan Barry, the New York Times reporter who wrote the article, was moved by the response.

"I'm blown away," he said. "I thought some people might call, but I never expected this type of response."

Barry said he wanted to write the article to show how living in the cold can be a struggle.

"Its a hidden challenge," he said. "It might not really meet someone's criteria for struggling, because they aren't on the street in a box, but it still exists."

Barry said he believed Mainers take care of each other and that is what helps people pull through.

"I tip my hat off to Maine," he said.

Libby and his staff struggled most of the day to keep up with phone calls. At times, he was at a loss for words and fighting back emotion from the overwhelming response.

 "I didn't expect this to happen," he said. "You can't even put it into words. America's got a heartbeat and we are hearing it."


To donate to a trust set up to help people who cannot afford heating oil, contact Hometown Energy at 562-8822 or mail checks to Hometown Energy at P.O. Box 485, Dixfield, ME 04224 or through www.HometownEnergyMaine.com.

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ERNEST LABBE's picture


Perhaps I'm wrong. However I saw nowhere in this article about people helping people anything any party afiliations. For all we know the donations came from independents. Who cares the money came from Americans wanting to help their fellow mankind period, end of story. Congratulations to Ike Libby for having a heart and helping people that need it.

ERNEST LABBE's picture


Your comment desreves no response.

Lenny Adams's picture

it was easy tomiss dan

Dan you are commenting on a differant part of this story, normal people comment on the artical at hand. This artical is not about democrats or republicans or people from away or anything you have stated in your pointless posts. Because you are having trouble understanding this, i will help you. THIS artical is about a small town man, and his small town oil company showing compassion for his neighbors and trying to help them in a time of need. Take you political opinion and stuff it. The fact that you even take the time to argue politics, shows me you will never be a part of the solution, only a soap box junkie with a closed mind.

Lenny Adams's picture

Dan the bean counter

Dan, did you get a list of the people sending donations to Ike? And did that list show the political stance of all donnators? Just wondering how you know how many republicans vs democrats donated. I must have missed that part of the story.....or are you just an angry man, who really helps no one and just likes to complain?

Lenny Adams's picture


I started buying oil from Ike since he started truckin it around, and this is why. I knew then that He was a great man and now a lot more people know it. Way to Go Ike.

 's picture

You beat me to it!

Thank you to Josh Wojcik of Upright Frameworks. My Monday morning mission was to find where exactly this house is located and ask these folks if I could plastic their windows. I am overwhelming impressed by the out pouring of generosity from not only Mainers but from other states as well. Sometimes it takes only speaking to the right person to get some much needed help. I would also like to thank Ike Libby. He is one of the most caring, generous people I know. He has helped my family out more than once by bleeding the furnace for free and showing me how to do it, delivering and giving me time to pay and sending the repair company when needed. Hats off to all who have helped!! Now, to see if these folks need any other assistance.....Just because I believe in Pay It Forward.

Kim Waite's picture

I pitched in

$25.00, because the thought of anyone having to give their car over to an oil dealer just to keep warm in Maine was awful to read about. Should not be happening in this country. Kudos to Ike Libby, though! He's a good man. We need more oil dealers like him across this state. :D

Heather M. Conley's picture

the community

I think it is wonderful that the people of this country are reaching out to help those whom live in this country. I am glad to see it stay here in this country where it belongs and helping our people. May the families that donate be blessed to no end and may the ones who recieve the generous blessing stay warm. I ke your an amazing man and you have a heart so big. May you have many blessings in your life to help you threw your journeys. Thank you to the people of america and all these other states for your very kind jestures you have made to help out our communities. You are angels in my eyes!!!!



How much did you contribute?

 's picture

This is how it should,

people helping their own neighbors willingly, not through funds forced out of tax payers.

Nathan Schultz's picture


This shows that we don't always need the government in order to help people and it is good to see the money helping people directly and not being passed through a couple of greesy palms first.

 's picture

Have you stepped up,

cause this conservative has.

RONALD RIML's picture

So has

this raging liberal....

 's picture


Dan you can't miss an opportunity to mix politics in such a heart warming article.
It is scum bags like you that should be banned from posting.

RONALD RIML's picture

So Fred

What have you donated besides hot air??

 's picture


Crawl back in your hole and hide from society.

RONALD RIML's picture

Fred (Flint)Stone ought to know

Fred (Flint)Stone ought to know about holes to hide in.....

You got stones to throw stones there, Mr Stone


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