THE LIVINGSTON DAILY: ‘Walk for Warmth’ for heating assistance
Jennifer Eberbach , Livingston Daily 4:30 p.m. ET Jan. 21, 2017
Livingston County's "Walk for Warmth" Feb. 18 will help keep the heat, electricity on for residents struggling to pay bills
Livingston County's "Walk for Warmth" begins at 8:30 a.m. Feb. 18 at the Hartland Educational Support Service Center, 9525 E. Highland Road in Hartland Township.
Single father Dale Fracassi said he was "desperate for help" when he got behind on his DTE gas and electricity bills a couple of winters ago.
"At one point they shut it off and I had to borrow money because I wasn't going to have my daughter, who was three at the time, there if she didn't have what she needs," Fracassi said.
The landscaper from Green Oak Township was struggling financially in large part due to mounting hospital bills after he was diagnosed with lymphoma. He said he was unable to work full-time during his health crisis, which included surgeries and chemotherapy treatments.
As winter of 2015 began, he found himself behind on bills once more, and he worried that his heat would be shut off and he and his daughter would be left in the cold.
"My daughter needed a stable house, and if you don't have power and you don't have heat, that's not stable," he said.
Fracassi reached out for help from the Oakland Livingston Human Service Agency, a nonprofit social services agency. The organization covered his DTE bills with funds from its emergency utility assistance program, which assists qualifying residents from the two counties when their utilities are shut off or about to be shut off.
OLHSA also helped Fracassi pay his rent.
"Honestly, if it wasn't for them, I'd be homeless," he said.
Now cancer-free, Fracassi said he plans to walk in this year's Livingston County "Walk for Warmth" fundraiser to show support and appreciation.
Walkers support the cause
Anyone can show up, donate and walk in Livingston County's "Walk for Warmth," which begins at 8:30 a.m. Feb. 18 at the Hartland Educational Support Service Center, 9525 E. Highland Road in Hartland Township.
Walkers travel a quarter-mile indoor loop through the hallways and can walk as much or as little as they want. The event will also feature areas for dancing, DJ Kurt Lewis, Jazzercise, children’s activities, refreshments and more.
Teams and individuals can preregister until Feb. 10 at www.olhsa.org/walk4warmth and solicit donations and track fundraising progress online.
People can continue to donate to the cause after the event, usually through the end of March.
Annual "Walk for Warmth" fundraisers held in Livingston and Oakland counties raise the majority of money that funds the organization's emergency utility assistance program.
Last year, the organization surpassed its fundraising goal for Livingston County, raising $95,685. All of those funds are spent on keeping county residents' heat and electricity on, OLHSA Assistant Director for Communications Ashley Yocum said.
In 2016, 240 families and 648 individuals received assistance;41% were children, 31% were single parent families and 24% were disabled. Yocum said her agency is still assisting more people with funds raised in 2016.
People in need of utility assistance are encouraged to call OLHSA at 517-292-2969 to schedule an appointment to see if they qualify for the program.
"To qualify for the funds, we use 200% of the national poverty level," Josh Reetz, welcome center services manager for the organization, said.
For a family of four, 200% of the national poverty level is $48,600 a year. It is $23,760 for an individual living alone.
He said the agency provides utility assistance all year round, but it is particularly critical to keep the heat on in the winter months. "There is a big need in our Livingston County community to take people out of their crisis situations, not just when they are behind on electric or gas, but also propane. ...October through March is really the crisis period."
Read the article on The Livingston Daily Press & Argus website here.