Archive | January, 2014

The Constant Quest

28 Jan

People often ask us, “What’s the most frequent request?”  Without doubt it is and has been for years, “Can you help me with my electric bill?”  Our annual outlay for electricity bills is generally in the $30,000 range. Before the recession, when we didn’t as rigorously hold our assistance to $50, the figure often reached $40,000.

Every year American Electric Power, under one of its subsidiaries, Appalachian Power (APCO) for West Virginia, or Kentucky Power for our folks on the other side of the Tug, is our biggest customer. I have said, jokingly, that maybe we ought to ask for a commission from AEP for helping to collect for its bills.

When your monthly income, if you have one–and surprisingly many people don’t–is $710, the power bill is a big chunk of it. For example, when a family manages to get into subsidized public housing, their rent is limited to one-third of their income.  Then they learn that they have 10 days to pay an electric deposit of $150 (or in Kentucky, more likely $250). And  that’s not easy to manage.

Bills build up fast in the winter.  A conservative friend of mine pays over $500 for a winter month’s electricity. And contrary to popular belief, electric companies do turn off service in the winter months, though they are slower to do so then than in the summer. They don’t want to be seen as responsible for someone freezing to death. Some who do win reprieves in winter take all summer trying to get caught up before cold weather strikes again.

           Others spend all summer without electricity. It’s easier to be without power in the summer –except that the kids can’t take a hot bath,  meals can’t be cooked  (most of our folks are total electric), and it gets very hot in those tin trailers without AC.

           Some people heat with kerosene, especially when their electric is off and the nights turn cold, but that’s a dangerous resort. The recurrent request is “Can you help us with our electric bill?” We do. And we refer them to the Dept. of Human Resources  or Coalfield Community Action or the churches–unless they have referred them to us. For many, it’s a constant quest.

Welcoming the Homeless–Puppies and Kittens, O My!

2 Jan

When your agency has a name like “Christian Help,” people expect that you can and will
help with all sorts of things. Over the years that name has meant that if dogs or cats, puppies or kittens, are in need of a home, Christian Help is the place to bring them.
It started before Mingo County had a shelter at all, and it often meant finding a box with kittens or puppies on our back porch or having someone walk in with several and say “Somebody dropped these off at the crossroad (or “on the mountain” or “by the river,”), and I can’t keep them. . .”
One memorable time was when, on returning to the Center after our Christmas distribution, very tired and needing to put our feet up, we found nine puppies in a box on our front porch. They would have frozen that night if someone hadn’t by chance opened the front door, used only when the Center is open.
The next morning, with Christian Help closed, two of us and the puppies went into Williamson and parked on a corner of Walmart’s parking lot.
“You can’t sell things here,” a young assistant manager told us.
“Oh, we aren’t! We’re giving away wonderful little Christmas gifts.” It worked that time, but the next time, it was “You can’t solicit here.” So we went across the road to a spot in front of puppy friendly Food City.
A couple of years ago, Sister Therese found homes for 137 animals over the year. Things have improved since the County Commission started subsidizing spay/neuter. Poor people can’t afford those much-needed procedures.
Generally unwanted puppies or kittens find homes in a morning or afternoon at Christian Help. But even with S/N assistance, we have ended up several times with four or five kittens in the late afternoon in a box in front of kitten-friendly Copley’s Store in Warfield.
Usually they find homes in half an hour or so. It is our hope and prayer that when the darling kittens turn into mischievous teens, they will still be loved and happy in their forever homes.