As the mercury drops, Project Warmth needs a fill up

Dave Lucas, a deliveryman with Sippin Energy Products, fills the oil tank at a customer's home.

MONROE, CT — A dusting of snow fell upon the region Tuesday morning as temperatures dropped to 36 degrees Fahrenheit. The winter chill may influence decisions to crank up the thermostat, rather than pulling on a warm sweater to get by, though some financially strapped families don’t have that option.

Monroe’s Community and Social Services Department helps residents in need to apply for financial aid  to heat their homes and, when those options are spent, Project Warmth, a town fund, bridges the gap.

Dave Lucas, a deliveryman with Sippin Energy Products, arrives at a customer’s home Tuesday morning.

Kim Cassia, the town’s director of Community and Social Services, said she always steers residents to the Connecticut Energy Assistance Program (CEAP) and Operation Fuel first.

“We try to get people to use these programs, because Project Warmth is entirely dependent on the generosity of Monroe residents, businesses and service organizations,” she said.

In 2022, Cassia said 37 Monroe households benefited from Project Warmth, when $12,200 of the $14,000 in available funds was used. So far this year, $2,300 was used toward seven families’ home heating bills.

A Warm Winter Gathering

Shannon Reilly, left, and Kelly Plunkett, organizers of A Warm Winter Gathering, show the game room at Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate: Gaetano Marra Homes Monday morning.

Kelly Plunkett and Shannon Reilly are organizing a fundraiser, sponsored by the Monroe Chamber of Commerce, to replenish the Project Warmth fund.

On Wednesday, Feb. 8, A Warm Winter Gathering, a party with appetizers, drinks and games, will be held on the lower level of Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate: Gaetano Marra Homes, 588 Monroe Turnpike, from 5:30 to 7 p.m.

The entire community is invited to attend. There is a $23 suggested donation and larger sponsorships are available. The event’s slogan is “23 for ’23”. To attend and donate online, follow this link.

To mail a donation to Project Warmth, make a check payable to Town of Monroe and write “Project Warmth” or “Project Warmth Monroe” in the memo line, and send it to Monroe Town Hall, 7 Fan Hill Road, Monroe CT 06468.

That evening, Project Warmth representatives will thank its sponsors and make an announcement about an annual fall fundraiser.

Plunkett said hosting a fall fundraiser will allow the town to replenish the fund just before the winter months, when residents need it most.

Reilly said past Project Warmth fundraisers have provided fun evenings for the participants. “I always thought it was like a wedding with your friends,” she said. “It’s always fun.”

Reilly said A Warm Winter Gathering was originally going to be the main fundraiser and several businesses intended to make donations, before organizers decided to plan an annual fall fundraiser. But a handful of these businesses decided to donate in February anyway, because of their commitment to the cause.

Sponsors of the A Warm Winter Gathering include: Bearingstar, Clarkson Plateau, Sippin Energy Products, the Monroe Chamber of Commerce, Power Network and Spadaccino and Leo P. Gallagher & Son Community Funeral Home.

David Sippin said his family’s company, Sippin Energy Products, donated $1,000 to Project Warmth for the February event and has pledged another $1,000 for the fall fundraiser.

“We are on board in providing financial support for this community need,” Sippin said.

Energy assistance

Dave Lucas, a longtime deliveryman for Sippin Energy Products, parked his truck in the driveway of a customer in Trumbull.

When people lose heat for their homes, Plunkett said they also lose hot water, a fact that can often be overlooked.

“There has been an unprecedented amount of requests over the last two years and energy and utility assistance has become a year round need,” Plunkett said. “It’s not just seniors living on fixed incomes. It’s individuals and families.”

The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) is a federal program which provides block grants to states to reduce the cost of energy bills for citizens in need.

The Connecticut Energy Assistance Program (CEAP) receives the funds and the aid for Monroe applicants is administered by the Alliance for Community Empowerment in Bridgeport.

Cassia said the money is paid directly to the vendor providing the home heating services. She said Monroe residents who took advantage of the program use oil, natural gas, propane and electric heat.

To be eligible, your annual household income must be below 60 percent of the state’s median income. Information on CEAP can be found on the state’s website.

Information on Operation Fuel can be found here.

Dave Lucas pulls a hose to the oil tank of a home in Trumbull, while making a delivery Tuesday morning.

The staff at Monroe’s Community and Social Services Department can provide assistance in applying for both programs. Call Mary Ann Kalm, social services coordinator, at (203) 452-2813, or Cassia at (203) 452-2815 ext. 4.

Project Warmth follows the same federal and state guidelines.

In addition to being offered after other programs are exhausted, when residents are low on fuel during the application process, Cassia said Project Warmth funds are often used to help them get by in the meantime.

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