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Demand For Heating Help Creeping Up With Cooler Temps

Friday, October 12, 2012

UPSTATE, S.C. -- Michelle Cole feels a lot of love for her house. She grew up in it. But at night the only thing she feels is cold. All of the windows in her home are missing part or all of the glass.

“I had someone to put some Plexiglas up, but evidently it didn't stay because it broke down here,” said Michelle, showing us one of the windows.

On a fixed income and not able to afford the repairs herself, she's hoping to get help through Piedmont Community Actions' Weatherization Assistance Program.

Jamie Henderson just took over as the program's new manager and says the number of people coming in for heating help is now up to 50 a week.

Some need help paying their heating bill. Others request those energy efficient improvements to their home through the weatherization.

“The thing that really sets us apart is that the program has special requirements and certain priorities,” saidHenderson. “The elderly, the disabled and households with children under 5 take precedent over a low income household.”

Henderson says there are now about 100 people on the weatherization waiting list. Some of them have been waiting for up to two years. But Henderson has some good news.

“We have new management now. So, we didn't have a good process at that time. But guess what, we're working on improving that,” saidHenderson. “And now, I can say that within 60 days, the people that are on the current waiting list will be seen and their house will be addressed.”

Just ask Frances Ridgeway. After applying for the program in 2010, her home just got the new insulation it needed.

“Oh lord, just blessed, so blessed,” said Ridgeway. “I feel like it's Christmas. I'm excited.”

It’s an emotion Michelle hopes to feel soon too.

"Whatever they can do to help me out, that's what I’m looking for,” said Michelle.

A Department of Energy grant pays for the weatherization program. And Piedmont Community Actions is limited to 70 homes a year. But low-income families who think they may qualify are encouraged to apply. To do so, call your local community action agency.

Several other groups in the Upstate also offer energy assistance, for help paying bills.

Tracey Early
Piedmont, South Carolina