PROVIDENCE — The National Grid Foundation awarded $80,000 to the Diocese of Providence to support “Keep the Heat On,” marking the foundation’s fourth major donation to the diocesan program that provides emergency heating assistance to hundreds of Rhode Island households throughout the winter.
National Grid Foundation President Bob Keller presented the donation to Bishop Thomas J. Tobin during a ceremony at the chancery last Thursday. Tim Horan, president and COO of National Grid Rhode Island, was also in attendance.
“I really want to thank Bishop Tobin and his incredible staff here at Catholic Charities who have done incredible work,” said Keller. “Without the work that a lot of the people in this room do, the money would be meaningless.”
The National Grid Foundation has supported the diocesan heating assistance program since 2014, when it made its first major donation of $70,000 to “Keep the Heat On.” Since then, the organization has contributed a total of $365,000 in large grants, helping to support a ministry that provides heating assistance to several hundred families in the Rhode Island area every year.
“It’s a real reflection on the impact that we can have on helping the wider Rhode Island community to survive in what is sometimes a difficult time of the year,” said Keller, who invited the public to join the foundation in supporting “Keep the Heat On.”
Bishop Tobin thanked the National Grid Foundation for its continued commitment to providing heating assistance to families in need in Rhode Island, mentioning the major impact the donations have on the surrounding community.
“This is a local team that I can appreciate and support,” he said. “It’s not just the money, though that is very significant. It’s also the sense of personal endorsement and community spirit that makes the ‘Keep the Heat On’ campaign so successful.”
Since its founding by Bishop Tobin in 2005, “Keep the Heat On” has provided emergency heating assistance to more than 11,000 households. The program provides assistance in the form of heating oil shipments of utility payments to families who have exhausted all other forms of public and private aid.
“Thank you to all who have supported and continue to support ‘Keep the Heat On,’” said Bishop Tobin. “It is wonderful work and it makes a lot of difference for a lot of people.”
Among those who attended the presentation ceremony was Donald Desper, a North Smithfield resident and recipient of heating assistance who grew up attending St. Ann Church in Woonsocket. Desper said he first heard about the program from staff at the Father Marot CYO Center in Woonsocket while working at the adjacent YMCA.
“I only took advantage of it after my business failed,” said Desper, who was formerly the owner of a construction company.
He added that he and his wife try to reduce their heating use during the winter months, closing the doors to all but three of the rooms in their house, but the older home remains difficult to maintain.
“With an old house, I’m going through 50 gallons in just about a week,” he said.
According to James Jahnz, emergency services coordinator for the Diocese of Providence, 863 households had received heating assistance through the diocesan program during the 2016-2017 season as of Friday, February 17. The Office of Catholic Charities and Social Ministry and its satellite offices typically experience a spike in calls during late January and February, when the cold temperatures lead to an increase in requests for assistance.
“Demand is pacing last year’s requests, which were high already, and it seems that this particular stretch of winter always sees high demand from our offices,” Jahnz told Rhode Island Catholic following the presentation ceremony. “It’s a reminder that the frigid weather and winter storms aren’t gone yet.”
Jahnz said he expects calls for assistance to continue through April, when warmer weather will begin to offer relief to families who have trouble paying their heating bill.
“I’m exceedingly thankful to Bob Keller and the National Grid Foundation,” he said. “The partnership that we’ve developed over the last four years has been very encouraging to know that the Keep the Heat On fund does such good and important work.”
If you would like to help local families this winter, please send tax-deductible donations to: “Keep the Heat On,” One Cathedral Square, Providence, RI 02903. A text donation of $10 can also be made by texting the word HEAT to 27722 or a $25 donation by texting the word HEATRI to 27722. If you or someone you know is in need of assistance, please visit the website at www.heatri.com or call 401-421-7833 for additional information.