REGION — An unexpected increase in the number of applicants for the Franklin County Ecumenical Heating Fund has nearly depleted the reserves of the program, putting several applications on hold.

“This fall the number of applicants has far exceeded expectations, leaving ECU HEAT without enough funds to guarantee the approval of any more applications until more funds are raised,” said Rev. Susan Crane, ECU HEAT coordinator. “The applications so far this year are closer to the number we usually serve over the course of the entire heating season, November through March. Why? We aren’t sure yet. We did not expect to serve more than last year’s number since last winter was long and cold, but it looks like we will surpass last year’s number.”

The fund serves every community in Franklin County through the ECU HEAT SHARE “$50 for HEAT” program. Low-income households are welcome to apply for a delivery of 100 gallons of oil, kerosene or propane, or 1 ton of pellets, or 1 cord of firewood, Crane said.

Each applicant contributes a $50 Share, in the form of a money order, payable to their fuel vendor.

The program began in 2005 with $5,000 assembled by the Farmington Area Ecumenical Ministry member churches from their various discretionary funds.  It is supported entirely by donations from individuals, churches, businesses, service organizations, United Way of the Tri-Valley Area, and Sandy River Charitable Foundation.

“We could do more by pooling our resources,” Crane said. “It has evolved over the years from an emergency program to a plan-ahead program that helps low-income families get by with a single fuel delivery before the LIHEAP money arrives in their fuel vendor accounts.”

East Coast Canada Celtic supergroup Coig will bring the heat to the stage at Old South Church ECU Heat Fuel Assistance Benefit Christmas concert on Thursday, Dec. 12. Submitted photo

The program also helps those who aren’t eligible for LIHEAP. Applications are available at Western Maine Community Action in Wilton, local town offices and at churches throughout the county.

“We only cover one delivery per heating season per household,” she added. “This year we upped the amount of liquid fuel from 50 to 100 gallons.  The cost is closer to what we pay for a pellet or cord wood delivery.  We have to raise about $60,000 a year to cover costs, but the Share contributions have helped us not run short … until this fall.”

Over 70 fuel deliveries were on hold as of Tuesday, Nov. 26, pending the arrival of more contributions. Crane said 230 deliveries had been approved.

“Knowing how much our community cares about keeping all our neighbors warm, ECU HEAT would like to invite people to send donations toward a matching grant by December 15,” she said. “All gifts will make an immediate difference for those in need.”

The $5,000 grant, offered by Sandy River Charitable Foundation, is a 1:1 match.

“If we don’t raise $5,000, we don’t get the match,” she added.

The major fundraiser for this year will be a Christmas Concert at Old South Church on Thursday, December 12 at 7 p.m., featuring the music of super-group Coig from Nova Scotia.

All donations at the concert, and by mail through the Dec. 15 deadline, will count toward the grant.

Donations can be made by sending a check to: ECU HEAT, P.O. Box 147, Farmington, ME 04938. Questions may be directed to Crane at 778-2163 or [email protected]

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