The Shepard family and the Shepard Auto Group announced a $5,000 challenge to raise additional funds for the AIO Energy Program.

The high cost of fuel, COVID-19 pandemic, and state and federal assistance bottleneck challenges created a perfect storm, forcing many families to choose “heat or eat” during the coldest times. This winter, AIO’s Energy Assistance Program has already provided $300 worth of heating fuel to more than 300 families, often in less than 24 hours.

“This is for our neighbors, our community members, our friends, and often our customers,” said Neal Shepard. “This is a critical time, as much of the available heating assistance has already been distributed. As a business community, we can pull to together to help families get through the rest of the winter.”

The Shepard Auto Group Challenge will match dollar-for-dollar donations from local businesses up to $5,000. Additional funds provided to AIO will give a “second helping” for those who have received assistance earlier in the year and reach even more families who need help.

The need is real, and it is urgent. The Shepard Auto Group challenge was created to respond to this need rapidly. If you can help, we ask you make your donation today. Your money will be put to use immediately, providing fuel purchases for families who have empty, or near-empty, fuel tanks. With every $1,000 donation, AIO can help three families get through the end of winter; $10,000 will provide help for more than 30 families. Every business that responds to this challenge will inspire other companies to join in. We hope this “snowball” effect will surpass the challenge goal and help even more families. The greater Rockland community is recognized as supportive and generous in assisting neighbors in times of need. We hope to respond quickly and keep struggling families warm and fed as we close out another difficult winter.

Donations can be made online at www.aio4me.org or by mail to AIO Food & Energy Assistance, P.O. Box 113, Rockland, ME 04841, or by contacting AIO executive director Joe Ryan at Joe@aiofoodpantry.org. Check presentation photos at your business or the AIO facility in Rockland are encouraged.