LEWISTON – A charity fundraising initiative by State Rep. Margaret Craven of Lewiston and State Sen. Peggy Rotundo of Androscoggin County has raised more than $13,000 in donations for area families to help heat their homes this year.

Their effort coincides with a bill passed on the first day of the legislative session that appropriates $5 million to Gov. John Baldacci’s “Keep ME Warm” initiative.

Baldacci founded “Keep ME Warm” in response to diminished funding from the federal government to Maine for home heating assistance. The decreased funding, coupled with drastic increases in the cost of heating fuel, would mean that fewer Maine families would have access to assistance this year.

Craven and Rotundo worked with other Lewiston legislators, SeniorsPlus and Bates Mill LLC to organize a fundraising program with the goal of contributing $12,000 to the fund for local families.

The legislators worked with Tom Platz and Pat Maiorino at Bates Mill LLC, a mixed commercial and retail development in downtown Lewiston, who had expressed interest in helping the effort. Bates Mill LLC promised up to $5,000 in matching funds to donations from area businesses and individuals.

The public responded by donating nearly $6,000 to date, and Bates Mill presented a check for $5,000 to Craven and Rotundo on March 3.

The delegation also raised $2,700 through the Charitable Fuel Fund Dinner, held at the Lewiston Multi-Purpose Center on Feb. 3. The event, coordinated with SeniorsPlus, featured entertainment, prizes and a lasagna dinner.

Student volunteers from the Lewiston High School Air Force ROTC, Young Democrats and Law Enforcement ROTC volunteered to serve dinner beside Craven and Rotundo, Lewiston Reps. Elaine Makas and Lillian LaFontaine O’Brien and local volunteers.

A star-studded list of local artists turned up to perform, including singer songwriter Leah Wolfsong; Pianist Phil House; comedian Gary Crocker; and a capella groups from Bates College.

Donations are still being accepted at Androscoggin Bank. Businesses and individuals can also donate by making checks out to Keep ME Warm Charitable Fuel Fund and sending them to Androscoggin Bank, P.O. Box 1407, Lewiston, ME, 04243 – Attention: Keep ME Warm Fund. Residents can specify that they want their donation to go back to their community.

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