High Desert families can get help to stay warm

NeighborImpact helps with bills, Bend church provides firewood

Local groups help families in need this winter

BEND, Ore. - When the temperatures drop on the High Desert, the number of people in need begins to rise.

"It's always busy this times of year, especially these past couple weeks as the temperature was really dropping," Scott Copper, executive director of NeighborImpact, said Friday.

Everyone across Central Oregon is trying to keep themselves and their families warm. But in an effort to fight the cold, bills begin to rise, and for some, paying them is unmanageable.

That's where NeighborImpact's Low Income Energy Assistance Program comes in -- a regional program that give money for utilities to low-income families, seniors and the disabled.

"We provide wood, we provide gas, we provide electric, we provide fuel oil, we provide pellets. If you can burn it for fuel, we probably provide it," said Cooper.

But the program doesn't just hand out heating supplies to anyone. Those in need must qualify. For example, for a family of four the maximum income is $42,574 42, and Cooper said the assistance is also prioritized by shut-off notices.

"So if you got a notice from your utility company, you're going to move to the head of the line," Cooper explained.

Cooper said the non-profit helps more than 6,000 families a year, but that number is only 1 in 7 of every call they receive -- which is why other separate volunteer groups help complete their mission.

Richard Berg of Nativity Lutheran Church said, "130 cords (of firewood) have gone out since October -- that's double the demand we've had last year."

"We expect to have about 250 to 300 cords to go out of here when this weather moderates," he added.

Berg helped start the firewood donation program at Bend's Nativity Lutheran in 2008. Since then, they have donated wood with the help of the J.L. Ward real estate development company to many in need throughout the community.

"We try and hold it down to maybe a half a cord or less, and we ask if they could be here and help us and volunteer with us," Berg said.

Berg also said not only do recipients of the wood help volunteer, but dozens from the community show up on Saturdays to lend a helping hand, which just shows how great the community support is to help those in need.

If you or someone you know need help this winter, you can contact the Energy Assistance Program at Neighbor Impact at 541-504-2155. Find more information here at their Website.

Or to start the screening process for firewood, you can contact Richard Berg at Nativity Lutheran Church at 541-598-6029.

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