Arkansas, Oklahoma Utility Companies Partner with Corps to Help Those in Need
By: Laura Poff
Many local commands provide fans and other affordable cooling sources for those without air conditioning. But in the extreme heat of summer, the CDC says that fans are not enough, especially for the elderly, children and those with chronic medical conditions who are especially vulnerable to the effects of temperature change.
Since the 1990s, Salvation Army units in Arkansas and Oklahoma have worked with statewide utility companies to raise and administer funds to help low-income families cover energy expenses throughout the year so that they can keep their air-conditioners on in the summer and adequately heat their homes in winter months.
Each year, Oklahoma Natural Gas, Oklahoma Gas & Electric, Public Service Company of Oklahoma and Black Hills Energy of Arkansas donate charitable contributions from customers, employees and investors. Additionally, throughout the month of July, those companies celebrate Home Energy Aid Month, matching donations raised by fundraisers held at local corps and commands.
The division expanded its Arkansas services thanks to a new contract with Entergy Corporation, which will donate $500,000 each year in direct assistance to support the HEAM project. The additional
support has allowed commands to support an additional 5,000 households since the division began administering the funds in March.
As social services administrator for the Kingfisher, Oklahoma, Service Unit, Ruth Sargent is often tasked with determining whether the people who come into her office in need of funds qualify for assistance She has seen first-hand the impact that a few hundred dollars can have when hard times arrive in the dead of winter or peak of summer.
“I was surprised when a young couple who appeared to be very professional came in asking for help with a utility bill,” she said. The two had been working well-paying jobs when they were laid off within weeks of each other. For a while, they were able to rely on their savings to provide for themselves and their three small children, but when that ran out, they came to The Salvation Army. Because of partner donations and HEAM fundraisers, they were given enough money to keep their airconditioner running.
“They couldn’t tell me enough how much they appreciated the help,” Sargent said.