Shrewsbury ready to assist residents with home heating costs
By Joyce DeWallace, Contributing Writer
Shrewsbury – Sharon Yager, director of the Shrewsbury Senior Center and the Council on Aging (COA), recently announced that the third edition of the “Home Heating Resource Booklet” is now available. The booklet provides a concise summary of all the existing programs to assist residents with their winter heating costs or in need of other community services. Anyone over 60 who wants help filling out the forms can contact the Senior Center. For younger adults, the Shrewsbury Youth and Family Services group will provide assistance.
“Loss of jobs, foreclosures and the national financial crisis of 2008 led to the formation of the Home Heating Group,” Yager explained. “We needed a way to make the community aware of the home heating services that were available for those in crisis.”
In the summer of 2008, the Board of Selectmen spearheaded a meeting of local emergency responders, the energy companies and oil delivery providers, area health and human service agencies, churches, and various town departments. They held a televised meeting to discuss what would be the best way to coordinate their services to help citizens who experienced a heating crisis situation. Much hard work resulted in a step-by-step protocol to help during emergencies. The first booklets were paid for by a state energy education mini-grant. Now the money comes from local sponsors.
“After the huge ice storm in December of 2008 that shut down our power for almost three days, the need for fuel assistance rose sharply. So many residents were struggling to make ends meet. So many people had never used public assistance. This was all new to them,” Yager said. “The Home Heating Group determined what the best ways were to identify residents in crisis and then respond to their needs. Now that the process and protocol have been established, it‘s a matter of keeping everything up-to-date and continuing communication with all agencies and departments involved to serve the community best.”
Walter Rice is the outreach coordinator for the COA.
“Now we have an emergency plan if furnaces break down or someone runs out of fuel. Once you apply for Fuel Assistance, SELCO (Shrewsbury Electric and Cable Operations) and NStar will not shut you off,” he added. “They would help you set up a payment plan. Mostly I deal with people in their 70’s and 80’s and even 90’s. I do home visits with shut-ins to help set up assistance programs since they can’t come to my office at the Senior Center. It takes a couple of visits to complete the process.”
The benefits of the fuel assistance program are many and are dependent on income, not assets. A resident may qualify for a free energy audit, free insulation, free windows and even a free furnace. The 20-page booklet covers everything from emergency preparedness and the many programs and funding sources to how to apply and who qualifies, all spelled out in understandable terms.
Yager summarized the program by noting, “I feel very fortunate to work for this community. This is one of the things that make Shrewsbury so special. Shrewsbury has a lot of assets and resources that other communities don’t have. The collaboration between departments and agencies and human services providers is exceptional.
“From my point of view, I feel very honored that residents here found trust in me to let me assist them in this whole process. People are proud, and I respect their privacy and keep things confidential,” Rice concluded.
Booklets are available both at the Senior Center and Youth and Family Services. Call 508-845-6932 to reach Youth and Family Services. The phone number at the Senior Center is 508-841-8640.
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