AIO Food and Energy Assistance announced that Rhonda Nordstrom is now AIO’s new energy assistance program manager, a role essential to providing Knox Country families with heating assistance support in times when budgets are tight and they need extra help staying warm.

“AIO’s mission to address food and energy insecurity are at an all-time high priority due to the impact of COVID-19 in the region. Rhonda’s commitment to our community and helping our neighbors be warm and safe, along with her experience as a small busines owner will bring life and structure to this essential program. We are thrilled to have her lead the program,” shares AIO Board President Liz Jenkins.

AIO’s Energy Assistance Program provides clients with an opportunity to request assistance with energy utilities during the winter months. AIO works directly with utility vendors who accept AIO vouchers for payment assistance for heating oil, kerosene or propane. Assistance is typically for up to 100 gallons per year, per family. This program runs from November through March.

AIO may help with assistance to prevent electricity disconnection (up to $200 per year). Clients must live in Knox County and vendors must have a physical presence in Knox County.

In 2019, AIO issued 625 energy assistance vouchers totaling $168,000 in support and was administrated entirely by volunteers. Plans to grow this program led AIO’s board to recognize the importance of having staff oversee it.

As the energy assistance manager, Nordstrom will liaise with participating fuel companies and churches and build new relationships wherever possible. She will also set up physical and digital systems as the pantry staff moves into the new facility. Nordstrom will lead and work along-side the volunteer team who work directly with the clients.

Nordstrom brings 16 years of experience running Rheal Day Spa after returning to her home in Rockland. That business was sold in 2018. However, she maintains an ecommerce business out of her home in South Thomaston, where she lives with her husband, Bob, and their dog, Daisy.

“Connection to community was always important to me personally and I knew it had to be a priority for my business to give back to that community,” shares Nordstrom.

“I started an ostensibly beauty-related business, and quickly learned the importance of helping women and girls overcome self-esteem issues. Often lack of money and worry about providing for their children and grandchildren entered our conversations. Volunteering on AIO’s Energy Assistance team opened my eyes to the fact that there is little disparity between a child going to bed hungry or waking up to a cold house. I look forward to playing a bigger role in helping children and families of Knox County be warm during cold Maine winters.”

Nordstrom begins her new position in September. Along with a larger food market, a larger client waiting room, and a private intake office, the new building will also have consultation offices for the Energy Assistance program, affording more privacy for the clients and efficiency for the staff.

Nordstrom may be contacted at energyassistance@aiofoodpantry.org. To learn more about AIO’s programs, modified operations and the new building project, visit aiofoodpantry.org.