Living Columns & Blogs

Neighbors keep neighbors warm with Center County Fuel Bank

Did you know there is help for our low-income neighbors so they won’t freeze in the winter? The Centre County Fuel Bank, managed by Interfaith Human Services, provides emergency winter heating fuel.

Clients are screened to be sure they meet income requirements and to establish that they’ve exhausted all other sources of assistance. Annually, recipients must attend a class on home energy efficiency or money management. Many of those needing help are children and senior citizens.

There are a lot of hard-working folks in Centre County who need help. One of our clients, an Iraq war veteran and single mom, supplemented her VA disability funds with part-time employment, but that put her just a few dollars over income to receive fuel from the County Assistance Office. Thankfully, the Fuel Bank could help. Her situation is not at all unique. Nearly all our clients work hard at jobs and/or at home to save every bit of money they can. Many are working families who do not receive food stamps or other assistance and work for hourly wages with few, if any, benefits.

While day-to-day expenses are met, large expenses like heating fuel deliveries present a significant challenge for these clients. The working poor in Centre County are exhausting themselves simply to provide the basics of food, shelter and clothing for their families.

The Fuel Bank is a collaborative effort and enriches us all. From clients at classes who share their best ideas for saving money and heat, to Pennsylvania Interfaith Power and Light who helps develop our class curricula, to the volunteers who facilitate classes by encouraging clients to share their experiences, to the organizations that host our classes all over the county, our classes are a collaborative effort. From the case workers at the County Assistance Office who provide referrals to the fuel vendors who take our orders, our process is a collaborative effort. And from the agencies who support the Fuel Bank financially — including but not limited to the Society of St. Vincent DePaul, Catholic Charities, Community Action, Salvation Army and funding from the County Commissioners — to the congregations, businesses and individuals who donate each year, our funding is a collaborative effort. Together, we learn from each other, enrich each other and work together as neighbors helping neighbors stay warm.

Viki Stumbers is the Centre County Fuel Bank coordinator at Interfaith Human Services, which is a Centre County United Way Partner Agency.