2015-02-13 / In the Know

Fuel assistance rally planned for Valentine’s Day

By B. Michael Thurlow
Special to the Leader

When the polar vortex swoops into the state, and a blustery nor’easter drops two feet of snow on coastal towns like ours, we know how to bundle up, dig out, and lend a hand to a neighbor when it matters most.

Unfortunately for some, the drop in temperatures and snowy forecasts bring with it worries about how to heat a drafty home or stretch an already tight budget to buy extra fuel. Many turn to our friends and neighbors at Project G.R.A.C.E. when their oil tanks and bank accounts run dry.

Even with the welcome drop in oil prices, the volunteers at Project G.R.A.C.E. have been answering a steady stream of calls asking for help. “Callers are typically families who struggle to make ends meet every month, they may have a temporary concern like loss of work due to injury or a layoff; many are elders on a fixed income that can’t adjust when temperatures drop; some have a member of the family with chronic or severe health concerns.

Others are just barely making ends meet even though they’re working full time,” says Jim Elkins, chair of Project G.R.A.C.E.’s all-volunteer Granting Resources Committee. “Families of all income levels – even here in Scarborough, are just a paycheck or two away from not having enough to keep heating oil in the tank, or pay for life’s basic needs.”

To help Project G.R.A.C.E. raise critical funds for their heating fuel assistance program, the Scarborough Public Safety Departments are hosting their third annual Drive-Thru “Rally to Keep Our Neighbors Warm” fund drive at the Oak Hill Fire Station on Saturday, Feb. 14 from 9 a.m. to noon. One hundred percent of the funds raised will go directly into the fuel assistance fund to help local neighbors stay warm this winter.

Free activities will be available for the whole family including: tours of the firehouse and police/fire vehicles, free smoke and CO detectors, a bake sale hosted by the Pine Point Ladies Auxiliary, door prizes and raffles, tips on emergency preparedness and home weatherization. Enjoy story time for little ones, displays on how animals adapt to winter, and more! There will also be a CLYNK collection of returnable bottles and cans.

Partners include: Scarborough Fire and Police Departments, Scarborough Public Library, Scarborough Marsh Audubon Center, Volunteers in Police Service, Rotary Club of Scarborough, Scarborough Terrace, Pine Point Ladies Auxiliary, Buy Local Scarborough, and more.

With the coldest weeks of winter still on the horizon, Project G.R.A.C.E. is appealing to the community for critical funds for fuel assistance. Early gifts from community partners and many generous families and individuals have already added up to about $8,000 in funds designated for fuel assistance. But that’s only about a third of what the group anticipates needing this season. And those dollars have already been spent.

“Although those very generous and deeply appreciated gifts have helped many neighbors keep the cold at bay, it’s not enough to get us through the end of the heating season, despite discounts from Conroy’s and the other companies we work with,” said Executive Director Steffi Cox.

Once again this year local businessman and benefactor, Eddie Woodin, has offered a challenge grant guaranteeing a $2,000 donation if Project GRACE can raise an additional $10,000 from the community.

The community rally is just another example of what a wonderful and caring community the town of Scarborough is. In Scarborough, we won’t leave our neighbors out in the cold – especially on Valentine’s Day. Please join us 9 a.m. to noon Saturday, Feb. 14 and if you’re not able to attend the rally you can also donate to this worthy cause directly through Project G.R.A.C.E. at www.projectgracemaine.org, or at P.O. Box 6846, Scarborough, ME 04070-6846.

B. Michael Thurlow is fire chief for Scarobourgh.

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