By LINDA M. LINONIS
This present can’t be tied up with a pretty red bow, but it provides a heartwarming gift for body and soul.
Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Youngstown will sponsor its “Keep the Kids Warm” campaign between the Feast of the Holy Family on Sunday and Feast of the Baptism of the Lord on Jan. 12.
Brian Corbin, executive director of Catholic Charities Services, said the project focusing on winter utility assistance is purposefully timed.
Last year, 4,948 people were helped. That translates to about 1,600 families, a tie to the Holy Family.
The project takes place after the rush of Christmas activities and fund drives. “Many groups work to provide a nice Christmas for those in need,” Corbin said. Many of the same people who need help at Christmas also need help with higher utility bills.
Corbin said donors are from Catholic parishes in the six-county Diocese of Youngstown and other community residents concerned about the welfare of people. All funds raised through this effort are returned to the counties in which they were collected to provide direct assistance to families in need.
Information provided by the diocese noted that “Keep the Kids Warm” assists working-poor families who do not qualify for government assistance; families waiting for PIPP (Percentage of Income Payment Plan) Plus to authorize assistance; and families whose HEAP (Home Energy Assistance Program) benefits have been exhausted.
Corbin said the program helps those who may make a bit too much for government aid but not enough “to get through high utility bills.”
Donations help cover a “big need,” Corbin said. For those who feel blessed, the project affords the opportunity to serve their fellow men.
Corbin said Catholic Charities serves all qualifying people in need regardless of their religion. “Eighty percent of those we serve are not Catholic,” he said.
Because of the cutback in food assistance earlier this year, Corbin said the agency is anticipating a greater need of utility assistance. Some funds that families would use for utilities now go to the grocery budget.