High heating costs this winter drive many to a non-profit for help

Eblen Charities says they are giving the public heating assistance at a pace way ahead of last year. Since November, Eblen has helped 5,000 families, which is up 1,200 from this time last year. (Photo credit: WLOS Staff)

This especially cold winter has put folks on a tight budget on edge. Heating expenses are soaring, which has many looking for a lifeline to get through the rest of the season.

Eblen Charities says they are giving the public heating assistance at a pace way ahead of last year. Since November, Eblen has helped 5,000 families, which is up 1,200 from this time last year.

The consistently crowded non-profit's office is the latest sign that winter is taking its toll. Betty King said her heating bill jumped to $400 this month.

"It's been real cold, and I had to use more heat than I usually d,o so I needed help for it," King explained.

The distribution of federally-funded heating assistance means the world to folks like Donna Culbertson of Leicester.

"Blessings from heaven," Culbertson said in the office of Intake Supervisor Brenda Wheeler. "I have about two or three inches of oil. My oil's about to run out!"

Culbertson and her disabled husband are desperately low on heating oil and completely out of firewood.

"When we had that really bad cold snap, I used a whole winter's worth of wood," she said.

In November, Eblen had about $2 million to provide heating assistance, but the higher demand has gobbled up much of that cash. That is no surprise to Betty.

"It's went sky high because of the snow. It's been cold," she said.

By midday Thursday, there was only about $300,000 of federal money left. Regardless of the numbers, Wheeler's determined to help.

"Eblen is never going to let anyone leave this office cold. It's not going to happen," Wheeler said. "If you get in here, you're not going to leave without something. "

Culbertson is one of the lucky ones to get assistance, receiving more than $600 worth of heating oil.

"If it weren't for them, I don't know what we'd do," she said.

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