Energy fund experiencing more need

  • The Salvation Army Athol Corps at 107 Ridge Ave. in Athol. Athol Daily News/Deborrah Porter

Staff Reporter
Friday, February 23, 2018

ATHOL — The Massachusetts Good Neighbor Energy Fund is appealing to Massachusetts’ residents and businesses to consider a donation to the Fund’s 2018 “Give the Gift of Warmth” campaign due to a heightened urgency of need brought on by the bitter cold temperatures and resulting increase in home energy consumption throughout the state.

“We have assisted 10 families this season. More than in the past,” Athol Salvation Army Lt. Michael Buzzard said Wednesday, crediting the money allotted to the organization. “The program is set up for someone who has fallen through the cracks — someone not quite eligible for fuel assistance but who is still struggling to put oil in their tank.”

The energy fund uses specific income guidelines. It is often the last resort for families who do not qualify for federal and state assistance programs. The Salvation Army, which administers the fund, pays the energy provider directly for households whose gross income falls between 60 and 80 percent of the state’s median income levels. For example, a four-person household would need to have a gross yearly income of between $66,115 and $88,153 to qualify. This campaign year’s fund disbursement is $425 per eligible household per heating season.

“The only problem we’ve found is confusion on the utility company side in referrals,” Buzzard. “They have sometimes referred families (who do not qualify) to us for being behind on their electric or oil bills. This has caused issues.

“It is especially difficult during a cold stretch — more so this year,” he continued. “People were pumping through their oil quicker, and some used their monthly allocation the first week in January.”

The Good Neighbor Energy Fund provides energy assistance to those Massachusetts households that, because of temporary financial difficulty, cannot meet a month’s energy expense and are not eligible for state or federal energy assistance funds. The 33rd annual campaign is a cooperative effort between the fund’s 20 sponsoring energy companies, the general public and the corporate community to raise $500,000 and help an anticipated 1,175 households.

“The bitter colder temperatures that we’ve recently endured are generating an increase in the number of inquiries by those in need of energy assistance,” said Patrick Murray, chairperson of the 2017-2018 Good Neighbor Energy Fund campaign and customer satisfaction and regulatory compliance lead supervisor for National Grid. “We appeal to the giving spirit of all our neighbors in the state and ask that you consider enclosing a donation of any amount with the green envelopes found in your utility bills or online at www.magoodneighbor.org.”

Since its inception, the fund has raised more than $21 million to provide more than 87,250 households with emergency assistance. Residents and businesses that wish to support the fund are encouraged to use the Good Neighbor Energy Fund’s green donation envelope found as an insert in monthly energy bills. Some energy companies offer an “add a dollar” program, which allows customers to contribute on their monthly bill payment by $1 or more.

Anyone can also donate with a credit card online by visiting www.magoodneighbor.org. Donors can also simply mail a check, payable to “Good Neighbor Energy Fund,” to Massachusetts Good Neighbor Energy Fund, c/o The Salvation Army, 25 Shawmut Road, Canton, Massachusetts, 02021-1408. Participating energy companies support their respective customers’ generosity through various giving programs.

For more information on the fund and how to apply, visit your local Salvation Army Corps Community Center or call 800-334-3047 if you live in area codes 508, 617, 781 or 978. Call 800-262-1320 if you live in area code 413. Web: www.magoodneighbor.org.

The Athol Salvation Army is at 107 Ridge Avenue. Buzzard can be contacted at 978-249-8111.

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