Wilmington church creates new heating assistance fund

WILMINGTON — A new Wilmington community fund aims to provide financial assistance to those who can’t afford to heat their homes during the long Adirondack winter.

The Jay, Wilmington and AuSable Fuel Fund, created and administered by the Whiteface Community United Methodist Church in Wilmington, has started accepting applicants for funding. The fund aims to give out grants of up to $500 to local households that are struggling to heat their homes.

“We’re always looking to see where there might be unmet needs in the community,” said Whiteface Community UMC pastor Chrys Beck. “One of the needs that had been kind of nagging at us was that we’re aware that there are people who struggle to have enough money to put fuel in their tanks or to meet their heating bills and (also) afford food and medication and everything else that they need.”

Parishioners came up with the idea for the fuel fund this past autumn and decided on a fundraising goal of $5,000. The church committed to matching donations up to $5,000 through December.

“The response was actually overwhelming,” Beck said. “The donations started coming in very quickly.”

By January, the church hit its goal. The fund now has around $10,000 ready to administer to those in need.

The JWA Fuel Fund is available to all those in need, even if they have already received benefits from the state Home Energy Assistance Program.

“HEAP is a wonderful service and helps so many people, and still sometimes there are folks who fall through the cracks for whatever reason,” Beck said. “Maybe they’ve used up their HEAP benefit for the year, maybe they just earn a little bit too much to qualify for HEAP, and so we thought it’d be great if we could find a way to have a fuel fund or a heating fund to help folks out.”

HEAP, a program administered by the state Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance, helps eligible New Yorkers heat and cool their homes. New Yorkers can apply online at www.mybenefits.ny.gov or in person at a local HEAP contact. Local HEAP contacts vary by county. In Essex County, the contacts are the Essex County Department of Social Services and Essex County Office for the Aging in Elizabethtown. In Franklin County, it is the Franklin County Department of Social Services in Malone. In Clinton County, they are the Clinton County Department of Social Services, Clinton County Office for the Aging and Joint Council for Economic Opportunity in Plattsburgh.

Eligible households may receive one HEAP benefit per year, though they can apply for emergency HEAP benefits if they are in danger of running out. HEAP eligibility and benefit size is determined based on several factors, including income, household size, primary heating source and the ages of family members. Different HEAP benefits are also available to repair, replace, clean or tune-up heating systems.

Anybody who lives in Jay, Upper Jay, Wilmington or AuSable Forks is eligible to receive assistance from the JWA Fuel Fund. To apply, contact Beck at 315-777-7047 or at chrysalis.coaching7@yahoo.com. Households can receive JWA funds once per winter up to $500. All JWA fund recipient information will be kept confidential.

The Whiteface Community UMC engages in several other community service programs, running the Riverside Thrift Store and housing the Jay-Wilmington Ecumenical Food Pantry.

“We are very, very outreach-oriented, community oriented, interested in helping people locally and across the world,” Beck said. “Almost all of the activities and programs that we have are oriented towards that goal.”

Beck said the church plans to continue the fund in the future and is still accepting donations. Those who wish to contribute can send donations to the Whiteface Community UMC at P.O. Box 26, Wilmington, NY 12997.


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