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Neighbors helping neighbors to "Keep the Heat On"


November 24, 2021
PLYMOUTH — "All of us, at some time or other, need help. Whether we're giving or receiving help, each of us has something valuable to bring to this world. That's one of the things that connects us as neighbors—in our own way, each one of us is a giver and a receiver," Fred Rogers once said.

Winter is coming, and so are higher home heating bills. "Keep The Heat On" (KTHO) Plymouth Area Community Closet 's (PACC) financial fuel assistance program for residents of 15 local communities, (Alexandria, Ashland, Bridgewater, Ellsworth, Campton, Dorchester, Groton, Plymouth, Rumney, Hebron, Holderness, Waterville Valley, Thornton, Wentworth, and Warren) is an enduring example of traditional neighbor-to-neighbor assistance. Area residents can be part of this fine tradition either by donating directly to PACC; or, by purchasing a ticket to the annual fundraiser auction and raffle. This virtual "UnEvent" will be live-streamed from the Squam Lakes Science Center in Holderness on Jan. 26, 2022, at 7 p.m.

The National Weather Service has forecasted a relatively milder 2021-22 Winter for New Hampshire with fewer extreme cold temperatures. Home heating is nonetheless likely to be considerably more expensive because of expected hikes in fuel prices. The U.S. Energy Information Administration's (EUSIA), October 2021 report predicted higher prices for home heating fuels for the entire 2021-22 Winter season: "We expect that households across the United States will spend more on energy this winter compared with the past several winters because of these higher energy prices…Households that use heating oil can expect to spend 43 percent more this winter, while those that use propane should see costs increase 54 percent." We know about 40 percent of New Hampshire households still use oil for heat, and about 18 percent use propane. The USEIA also predicted that natural gas prices could increase up to 30 percent, which would affect about 20 percent of New Hampshire families. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the consumer price index rose 6.2 percent this October from a year ago. If the predicted mild winter weather turns colder, families could pay even more to heat their homes.

Many studies show that lower-income households spend a larger share of their income on energy than do higher-income households. Last year almost 29,000 New Hampshire families received Federal financial fuel assistance through the state's Fuel Assistance Program (FAP). Recipients must meet strict income eligibility guidelines to receive this FAP assistance and their applications are processed by local community action programs.

"Keep The Heat On" is different. The program relies largely on donations. Bob Gannett, PACC board member and KTHO volunteer says that KTHO provides financial fuel assistance to individuals or families one time per year to purchase 150 gallons of heating oil (or propane, natural gas, or the equivalent in wood or wood pellets). He described a straightforward process: call the PACC Fuel Assistance number -603-536-1101- and provide your name, home address, and the name of your fuel vendor; then a PACC volunteer enters the information into the PACC data base, verifies the fuel vendor, and sends a check to that vendor for the fuel delivery. That's it. There are no income or family eligibility restrictions. However, the recipients of the fuel assistance must reside in one of the 15 communities that PACC serves. According to Mr. Gannett, this year PACC began distributing fuel assistance in mid-October. He noted that 70 families already had received assistance; a 15 percent increase over the 51 families that were helped last year in a comparable period in 2020.

Over the last 17 years, KTHO has provided close to $400,000 worth of financial fuel aid to the PACC region's families. By all accounts, KTHO is a much needed and reliable source of additional support for families that struggle to meet their financial obligations. Personal donations are accepted by PACC throughout the year, and all contributions help. However, the annual auction and raffle remains a major source of funds for the KTHO program. The virtual "Keep The Heat On" fundraiser is ON; regrettably, due to the persistent COVID pandemic, the catered dinner party is not. The ticketed virtual event scheduled for 7 p.m. Jan. 26, 2022, will feature AJ Coppola, a well -known local teacher, musician, and performer. AJ will emcee the auction and raffle activities at the Squam Lakes Center, and he's sure to keep the evening lively and fun. The auction and raffle (the "UnEvent") is a win-win for both donors and local artisans, restaurants, and business owners. Handcrafted jewellery, artwork, paintings, chef catered home dinners, cross country ski lessons, are among the many interesting and diverse items to bid on/win during the live -stream from the Squam Lakes Science Center.

Tickets for the KTHO "UnEvent" are $45 per person, and are available online at the 32auctions.com/KTHO 2022 Web site beginning Jan. 5, 2022. Your purchased ticket to the KTHO fundraiser "UnEvent" is your entry into the raffle drawings. Auction items may be previewed online at the 32auctions.com website in early January and online bids will be accepted 2 weeks before the scheduled live-stream "UnEvent". Let's make it "a beautiful day in the neighborhood" and help our neighbors stay warm this winter.

The KTHO volunteer committee partners with the Plymouth Area Community Closet in their ongoing mission to aid our neighbors. Keep the Heat On—and the assistance it helps provide—is entirely non-partisan.

PACC is located at 5 South Main Street, Plymouth. Fuel Assistance is available by phone on Tuesdays and Thursdays 9 a.m. to noon, tel # 603-536-1101. The PACC Food Pantry is open Tuesdays and Thursdays 8-10 a.m., tel # 603-536-9889.

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