Community

Fuel bank classes get underway

The Centre County Fuel Bank provides emergency home heating assistance to residents in need, but there’s also an educational component, said Interfaith Human Services Executive Director Wendy Vinhage.
The Centre County Fuel Bank provides emergency home heating assistance to residents in need, but there’s also an educational component, said Interfaith Human Services Executive Director Wendy Vinhage. Centre Daily Times, file

There’s a chill in the air, and people are turning on the heat.

But for some residents in Centre County, it’s not as simple as turning on the furnace.

That’s where the Centre County Fuel Bank comes in. The fuel bank is administered by Interfaith Human Services, a nonprofit collaboration of faith communities that helps low-income Centre County residents.

The fuel bank provides emergency home heating assistance for families in need, said IHS Executive Director Wendy Vinhage.

If there’s a risk to the family or home, then it’s considered an emergency, she added.

To receive fuel from the bank, residents have to first apply to the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program, a state Department of Human Services grant.

People can make up to 150 percent of the federal poverty line, Vinhage said. They also have to take either an energy conservation or budgeting class, which are offered through the fuel bank.

“The main reason they came up with the idea of the classes is so that we wouldn’t run out of funds for the fuel bank. Because if we’re able to teach people how to budget and how to conserve energy throughout the season, chances are they’ll be able to use their fuel longer,” she said.

Vinhage said they also received a federal grant from the Pennsylvania Housing Affordability and Rehabilitation Enhancement Fund for $15,000 at the end of last year and a match from the county commissioners for $35,000.

“The commissioners have been extremely generous in helping this community with emergency heating assistance,” Vinhage said.

The requirements for the PHARE grant and county commissioners’ match are the same, Vinhage said, except residents can make up to 200 percent of the federal poverty line, and they have to live in certain areas that are affected by Marcellus Shale drilling.

“We realized that some of our largest needs were in the Philipsburg and the Rush Township area,” she said. The fuel bank is offering more classes in Philipsburg this year.

Last year, the fuel bank spent about $40,000 and helped more than 230 people, which Vinhage said is actually low for them.

The previous winter, she said, the fuel bank helped close to 400 people.

For more information, call 234-7731 or visit http://www.ihs-centre county.org/.

Centre County Fuel Bank class schedule

Pine Hall Lutheran Church, State College: 6 p.m. Thursday; noon Jan. 27; 6 p.m. Feb. 13

Grace United Methodist Church, Philipsburg: noon Nov. 4; noon Dec. 1; 6 p.m. Jan. 4; 6 p.m. Feb. 9; noon March 6

Trinity United Methodist Church, Bellefonte: 6 p.m. Nov. 14; noon Jan. 10; noon Feb. 3; 6 p.m. March 15

Howard United Methodist Church, Howard: 6 p.m. Dec. 13; noon Feb. 21

New Hope Lutheran Church, Spring Mills: 6 p.m. Jan. 19

▪ Classes are open to everyone, not only those who need heating assistance.

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