When the weather outside is frightful, poverty-stricken people who canâ€™t afford heating have a lot to worry about.
During December and January, Christian Ministry of Lincoln County spent more than $4,000 on energy-related expenses for clients, and February may be its busiest month yet.
â€œWe have had an increase in the number of people who are coming in for heat-related purposes â€“ everything from kerosene to having their power bill paid,â€ said Susan Brymer, executive director of Christian Ministry of Lincoln County. â€œParticularly the last two weeks have been extremely heavy.â€
The ministry has been able to deal with this need through two grants from Duke Energy. One of the grants has been annually aiding the ministry since 1985. This year, there is also a special merger grant, making the total Duke Energy donation more than $23,000.
â€œWe feel itâ€™s just part of being a good corporate citizen,â€ said Rick Rhodes, spokesperson for Duke Energy. â€œWe strive to make differences in the community where we have operations, where we have customers.â€
Not just anybody can capitalize on the grant money, however. First, people must be interviewed by Christian Ministry.
â€œWe donâ€™t want anybody to go cold, but they do have to qualify under the financial guidelines for poverty,â€ Brymer said. â€œWe canâ€™t just help anybody of any economic situation.â€
Those who do qualify have a financial limit of $400 of aid per year.
Energy expenses are only paid if there is a danger of the heat being cut off. Checks are sent from the Ministry directly to energy companies or fuel and kerosene providers.
Sometimes clients also walk away with appliances and laundered blankets.
â€œIf people have space heaters or electric heaters, kerosene heaters that are in good shape, we will gladly accept those,â€ Brymer said.
Besides the grant money, the ministry has a total budget of $65,000 for emergency services. That money is used to pay for energy needs, rent, prescription medication and other emergency needs.
â€œThatâ€™s a budget figure,â€ Brymer said. â€œWe only have to spend what people donate, so if they donâ€™t donate money towards the budget, we obviously donâ€™t have it.â€
For more information call the Christian Ministry at (704) 732-0383.
by Sarah Grano