ALPENA - As the temperatures drop, the cost of heating your home is more than likely rising as well. For some the burden of the higher bills is too much to overcome, but the Salvation Army is doing its best to assist those who are having trouble paying their utility bills and in some instances helping with rent and clothing.
Kathy Ceci, client advocate for the Salvation Army, said there have been fewer people requesting assistance in Alpena for help paying heating bills, but the bills that are coming in have been significantly higher than last year, especially those who use propane to heat their homes. She has seen bills that exceed $1,200. Ceci said the Salvation Army received a grant it uses to assist people who are struggling to pay their bills, avoid their utilities from being shut off.
"Right now we have a utility grant from the Michigan Public Service Commission and we use that to help people. The requirements to receive assistance go by income," Ceci said. "We also help with providing proactive solutions where we will sit and help you learn how to conserve energy to keep costs down and the bills won't remain as high as they are."
The Salvation Army also is offering assistance with providing warm clothes, jackets, gloves, hats and even medication if needed. Maj. Craig Stoker said it is the mission of the Salvation Army to help people in any way it can and he said in the winter the need always seems to be a bit higher than in the warmer months.
"We are here to do one thing and that is to help people," Stoker said. "We do that physically, spiritually, educationally and financially if they need help. People know they can come to us for help and if we can't help them someone in our network in Alpena will."
Stoker said he has seen a significant increase in requests for help paying for prescriptions. He said there are many people who still do not have health insurance and have low income, so they need help paying for needed medicine. He said over the last year there is still a strong demand for services the Salvation Army provides, but he said he hasn't seen large increases like several years ago when the recession hit.
"We help with everything from food to emergency transportation and the demand has remained steady for all of them," Stoker said. "Most of the people are new, because it is our goal to not enable people to stay in the system, but to help them get out. For the most part the people just need a little help until they are able to get back on their feet and we help them do that."
Stoker said people who need help can do so at the office on 722 N. Second Avenue. He said the Salvation Army also can use more donations in order to fulfill its mission.
"It is really simple, the more funds we can get, the more people we can assist," Stoker said. "There are lots of times where people come in with huge heating bills, or are months behind on rent and we just can't pay for all of it. The more income we get, the more we can help the people who really need it."
Steve Schulwitz can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5689. Follow Steve on Twitter ss_alpenanews. Read his blog, Upon Further Review ... at www.thealpenanews.com