Combined Community Services is gearing up for what is expected to be lots of requests for utility assistance in the next couple of weeks. Last week’s cold snap is likely to result in higher than normal utility bills and a rash of those unable to pay.
Since Nov. 1, 2012, to Jan. 24, CCS has helped 83 families with NIPSCO, REMC and even propane bills totaling $10,925.77. With the loss of such programs two years ago like NIPSCO’s Gift of Warmth, which supplied money for utility assistance, CCS is finding it harder and harder to help local families facing disconnect in the coldest months of the year. CCS needs $25,000 to apply for matching grants.
The Greater Warsaw Ministerial Association is currently in the throes of seeking donations among its members to help the struggling people of the community. “CCS was started by the ministerial association so we should all be supporting it today,” said Pastor John B. Lowe of New Life Christian Church, Warsaw. New Life is giving $15,000 to CCS for the utility assistance program.
The GWMA currently has about a dozen active churches and nearly as many active organizations involved, but donations have been slow. Lowe challenged his congregation throughout the month of January to help the CCS program by giving whatever they were able to donate.
“We’ve been provoking people to do something; to give something,” said Lowe. “I’d like to see the churches in the community see the value in helping children from having utilities turned off … the sad thing is poverty isn’t just because they don’t want to work. The truth is, there are injuries, illnesses, lay offs and breakdowns of the family unit. The breakdown of the family unit is the biggest reason for struggles.”
During a small group session at CCS on Sunday, Lowe shared his own story of struggles. “When we first came to Warsaw, our utilities were turned off,” he recalled. “Fortunately we had a fireplace so we kept that going and everyone slept in the living room. We did that for a week.”
A few years later, CCS received a matching grant with NIPSCO so Lowe, realizing the struggles of families, challenged his congregation to sell something and give the money to CCS.
Lowe’s push to continue to help CCS and area families brought about the GWMA challenge, but thus far the churches have not responded well. “We need to pull together,” he said.
Ken Locke of The Salvation Army added, “There are 125 churches in Kosciusko County. If every one gave $1,000, we’d meet our $25,000 goal.”
The belief is that, though CCS was formed by the GWMA, it was 28 years ago and the awareness of the churches is not as prevalent as it once was. “CCS was founded by the GWMA and should be supported by churches. There are newer pastors who don’t realize that; they weren’t around 28 years ago,” Lowe explained.
In order to qualify for the matching grants to assist more families, CCS needs to receive donations by the end of the month, which is Thursday. The community and the GWMA are being asked to help in any way possible. Checks to the CCS Winter Warmth may be made sent to 1195 Mariner Dr., Warsaw, IN 46582. All donations are tax deductible.
Individuals who would also like to help on a smaller level may stop in to the CCS office and donate $10. Each $10 donations will receive a Mudlove bracelet bearing the message “warmth.”
Families at or below the 150 percentile of the poverty level can receive assistance with their utilities. At that level, a family of three must have an income no greater than $28,750.
To inquire about other qualifications, contact CCS at 574-269-6019.