GREENSBORO, N.C. — Imagine sleeping in freezing temperatures because you don't have enough money to heat your home. That is the reality for one in four Triad families living below the poverty line and struggling to make ends meet.
Thankfully, there's help! The Gift of Warmth is a community initiative and fundraiser which provides heating assistance to people in Guilford, Alamance, and Rockingham counties.
This year, the need for heating assistance is greater as families who suffered financial losses and hardships during the pandemic try to bounce back.
Plus, as temperatures drop, heating prices are expected to soar. The Energy Information Administration predicts the year-to-year prices for households using heating oil could increase by more than 40 percent. Natural gas prices are expected to go up 30 percent, while propane costs are set to have the highest bump of 54 percent, and heating with electricity will cost you 6 percent more.
That is not good news for people struggling to pay their bills.
“This pandemic is still here, and people are still struggling to make ends meet," said Lt. Chris Raymer, Corps Officer with the Salvation Army of Greensboro.
“We're seeing a lot of requests for emergency rental assistance, emergency utility assistance, and those funds are not always there. We want to help the most people with the most need and then we hear about Gift of Warmth and knowing that those funds are coming in so we can meet the needs of more families,” Raymer said.
Through Berico Fuels, Carolina Fuels, Alamance Oil Company, and the community’s kind donations, the fundraising campaign assists thousands of families through the cold winter nights.
“All those contributions go to the families who qualify in our community, whether it is a Berico customer or a competitor's customer, anybody who qualifies can get help,” said Will Berry, President of Berico.
Berico matches all donations through www.giftofwarmth.com. The Salvation Army then distributes those funds to families who cannot afford to heat their homes.
“The average family needs more than $230 to heat their home each month. Last season we helped more than 190 families in our community. That’s more than 1,200 families in the 16 years we’ve been doing this,” Berry said.
The community match raised $75,716 in 2020, so the goal is set even higher this year.
James “Smitty” Smith is one of the generous donors to partner with the Gift of Warmth. Smith owns several McDonald’s restaurants in the Triad.
“We have a saying that we are on the corner, but we are in their corner, we are in the corner of our customers,” Smith said.
Smith is driving thru the message that kindness matters.
“Our reward is that we see people get help. We are part of an organization that helps people stay comfortable and that's what we need to do in this time. That's what we need to do all the time,” Smith said.
Along with Berico, the Salvation Army, Truist, Rent-A-Home, and McDonald's, WFMY News 2 is also a proud sponsor of the Gift of Warmth program.
You can find details and ways to give here.
If you need utility assistance, call your local Salvation Army.