Heating assistance program seeks donations

By Jenna Lookner | Dec 11, 2012
Photo by: Jenna Lookner A donation jar for Help Heat Homes on the counter in Camden's Fresh Bakery. Such jars are situated in about 140 locations throughout Knox County, according to Jan Dolcater.

Camden — Residents of Knox County have likely noticed donation cans for Help Heat Homes sitting on counters at businesses throughout the region. Those cans — approximately 140 of them — are just one small part of the fundraising effort under way to assist families in need with heating their homes during the 2012-2013 winter season, said Knox County Republicans Chairman Jan Dolcater.

Now in it's second year, Dolcater said Help Heat Homes is a program spearheaded by the Knox County Republicans as a way to help the community at large.

"This was started as a project to give back to the community," Dolcater said, "we began with absolutely no idea of what could be accomplished."

In addition to the donation jars and contributions from individuals, businesses and service clubs,  Dolcater said two successful fundraising events augmented the program during the 2011-2012 season. A spaghetti supper at the Rockland Elks Club raised more than $7,000, he said, and a "Big Band Bash" at The Rockport Opera House was also successful. Most of the food served at the spaghetti supper was donated by local businesses, and baked goods were donated by members of the Emblem Club, which is the women's counterpart to the Elks, Dolcater said.

Dolcater said money raised by the initiative are donated to Penquis. Penquis, in turn, adds the funds raised by Help Heat Homes to annual allocations received from federal assistance programs. While the state received about $38 million in heating assistance funds this year, according to Dolcater, qualifying Knox County families in need receive an average of roughly $550 in federal subsidies to off-set heating costs for the entire winter season, an amount Dolcater said is not enough. Funding has been cut drastically for heating subsidies during the past several years, he added.

Furthermore, said Dolcater, he has heard annual government funding may be slashed further — by as much as 10 percent —moving forward.

Dolcater said the money raised by Help Heat Homes is donated with no administrative expense taken out, meaning every cent donated goes directly to Penquis, and straight to a family in need. He said he collects and delivers money to Penquis several times a week while the fundraising campaign is under way.

More than 100 families in Knox County benefited from the nearly $39,000 in donations that Help Heat Homes received in the inaugural year of the initiative, said Dolcater. Some of those donations were modest — one donor wrote a check for $10 — and some significant, one individual donated $10,000, Dolcater said. He added that many local churches also made significant donations.

"The most satisfying thing is how generous different elements of the community are," Dolcater said.

While all funds raised by Help Heat Homes will stay in Knox County, Dolcater noted that donors from Portland to Bangor contributed to last year's effort.

Local businesses of all kinds and sizes throughout Knox County have contributed in various ways, from agreeing to place a donation can at store locations to donating money, food or services.

"To me that was nothing more than community spirit," he said.

Dolcater said a spaghetti supper is tentatively planned for Feb. 8 at Rockland Elks Club and a second Big Band Bash to benefit the program is in the process of being planned. Dolcater said a third fundraiser is in the works as well.

Dolcater said anyone wishing to donate or get involved with Help Heat Homes can contact him by email at jandolcater@yahoo.com or by phone at 236-8625 or 593-2223.

"We're open to any ideas or thoughts about how we can expand fundraising," Dolcater said.

Courier Publications reporter Jenna Lookner can be reached at 236-8511 or by email at jlookner@courierpublicationsllc.com


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