Helping Hands | Fuel bank requires energy classes for hopeful recipients

In July, the Centre County Fuel Bank began to prepare for the 2013 season. Anticipating financial challenges, the fuel bank committee implemented an educational component to eligibility. The educational component is a one-hour class on home energy conservation and was created to help consumers identify ways to lower heating bills, minimize heat loss, and encourage informed heating and energy product purchases. The class also is intended to extend fuel bank resources so a greater population in need can be served.

To prepare for the new eligibility requirement, more than 1,000 postcards were mailed to past fuel bank consumers and distributed to food bank clients. Agencies and county offices were notified of the class requirement for eligibility. Eleven classes were held in Philipsburg, Pleasant Gap, Bellefonte, Howard and multiple State College locations. Through the generous efforts of congregations and partner organizations every class, was preceded by a lunch or dinner. Special provisions were made for those households who were not physically able to attend.

Forty people attended the first fuel bank class. It was a great start and we were optimistic about the level of response and apparent interest in the class. As those warm months turned to chilly temperatures, instead of an increase to the class attendance, the numbers dropped significantly. Only two people attended the most recent class on Dec. 12.

There are still many consumers who have previously utilized the fuel bank but who have not made it to a class. For those who could attend but didn’t, the options are limited. Classes will continue, but not at a frequency that will necessarily meet a heating emergency for those households who have yet to attend. The fuel bank plans to have one class each week until the Centre County Fuel Bank closes on March 29. These classes will be at locations throughout the county.

The Centre County Fuel Bank is funded by private donations. There are no government contracts that annually support this assistance. The fuel bank exists because of the generosity of individuals who choose to help and because of the efforts of multiple organizations that comprise the fuel bank committee. The classes and meals occurred because many groups contributed the use of their facilities and donated food and time to serve others. As a community resource, it’s our job to do all we can to be the best stewards of those gifts and to help everyone do their part to conserve energy and lower heating costs.

For information regarding future class dates, locations and times, check the IHS website at ihs-centrecounty.org and click on the “fuel bank classes” sidebar.