H.E.A.T raising money for utility bill help

COVINGTON -- The Heating Energy Assistance Team, also known as H.E.A.T., is offering locals the chance to help their neighbors who are struggling to pay utility bills.

H.E.A.T.'s Neighbors Helping Neighbors Keep Warm campaign runs through the end of March. Donations in any amount, even $5, are encouraged, said Executive Director Janet Joseph. Although it takes $350 to provide assistance for one family, every little bit helps, she said.

Last year, nearly 250 families in Newton, Rockdale, Walton, DeKalb and Gwinnett counties received a total of nearly $86,000 in financial assistance to help pay their heating bills with the help of H.E.A.T. Funds are distributed through Partnership for Community Action Inc. No more funds will be distributed this winter, but funds collected during the campaign will be distributed next winter, said Joseph.

"We depend solely on donations from the general public and energy companies. We have to get the donations before we can make the money available," Joseph said, adding that funds have been running out fast. The Neighbors Helping Neighbors Campaign was launched to boost donations in order to assist more people, she said.

Joseph said counties receive an allotment of funds based on their poverty levels.

H.E.A.T. provides one-time emergency assistance to families who meet eligibility requirements. Applicants are required to supply proof of income, recent utility bill statements and Social Security cards. Donations are tax deductible and can be made online at www.heatga.org/warm or mailed to H.E.A.T., Wells Fargo Bank, P.O. Box 930112, Atlanta, GA 31193.