Farmington: Ecumenical Heating Fund faces shortfall

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FARMINGTON — The Franklin County Ecumenical Heating Fund is facing a shortfall as it looks ahead to the beginning of the heating season next autumn.

The fund’s current balance of $8,800 may be enough to help 55 families next fall, fewer if the price of oil rises or kerosene is needed. However, for the last two years more than 150 families have called for help between Sept. 1 and Nov. 30, according to the Rev. Susan Crane, coordinator.

“We are anticipating a grant of $7,500 from the Sandy River Charitable Foundation in September but to cover the expected need, upward of $40,000 will be needed in the fund by September,” Crane said.

While community support for the fund has remained steady over the years, a loss of $20,000 in nonrenewable funding from various outside charities is a huge gap to fill, Crane said.

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During the 2009-10 heating season, from September through May, Ecu Heat provided 50 to 100 gallons of fuel to 217 households throughout Franklin County, with 168 of those first-time recipients of assistance. Ministry officials believe there are many more families in need in Franklin County.

At their May meeting, the Farmington Area Ecumenical Ministry reluctantly agreed to the following policy changes for the Ecu Heat Fund for the remainder of 2010:

• The fund will close for the summer as of May 21 and not reopen for business again until Oct. 1 rather than Sept. 1.

• The fund will only be able to authorize 50-gallon deliveries. Normally, it has authorized 100 gallons, if the customer’s regular fuel dealer would not deliver 50 gallons without a delivery charge. Ecu Heat cannot afford to pay for 100 gallons or to pay delivery charges. Any cost beyond the cost of 50 gallons of fuel will have to be paid by the customer.

Ecu Heat advises families to start paying something on their fuel accounts over the summer so that they will have money set aside for a delivery that the fund might be able to supplement with 50 gallons of fuel, Crane said.

The fund is open to any household in Franklin County in need of fuel assistance. Callers are asked to provide income information, in case they may be eligible for federal or state funded programs first.

Requests for fuel assistance are made by calling Western Maine Community Action at 645-3764. People who expect to be eligible for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program should make every effort to apply beginning in August. If a household qualifies for LIHEAP, but needs help prior to the arrival of federal dollars in December, Ecu Heat can help. Ecu Heat also helps families that exceed income guidelines for LIHEAP. The fund can only help until the money runs out.

Donations to the fund may be sent to Ecu Heat, P.O. Box 147, Farmington, ME 04938. Contributions are tax deductible and will be acknowledged.

As a way of helping to raise money for the fund, the Henderson Memorial Baptist Church will again offer a free hot dog giveaway on July 3 after the parade.

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