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[r29] Column: Staying warm this winter and helping those in need
Start Date: 11/13/2013Start Time: 12:00 AM
End Date: 11/13/2013End Time: 11:59 PM
Entry Description
Staying warm this winter and helping those in need

As we head into the holiday season, many people throughout Indiana will struggle to pay their utility bills. Some Hoosiers will also have trouble putting Christmas gifts under their tree, which is why volunteering each year is so important. At the state level, there are programs in place to help keep budgets balanced and the furnace running. I know we all have seen the heating bill already start to rise, tightening our finances. But, there is help for those most in need. In 2012, the Legislature designated additional money for the state’s Energy Assistance Program (EAP) in conjunction with the federal government’s Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP).
 
The EAP provides financial assistance to low-income households to maintain utility services from November through March. All of Indiana’s Community Action Agencies implement the program, under the umbrella of the Indiana Housing Community Development Authority, through county outreach offices. For Hamilton County, Darrel Wilson is the county coordinator and can be reached at (317) 773-2221. For more information about the appropriate funds available from EAP and the technical aspects of submitting the application, please visit www.cagi-in.org. There is also more information about energy assistance, housing needs, foreclosure prevention, homelessness, etc. at www.in.gov/ihcda.
 
Since the early 1980s, the federal government has annually appropriated funds to states to provide energy assistance to low-income families, but recently that funding stream has been reduced. While Indiana’s energy assistance programs are still primarily funded through the federal LIHEAP block grant, recent legislation increased the state’s role and benefitted more than 8,000 families. Elderly and disabled Hoosiers are also helped by these funds as LIHEAP benefits range from $53M to $63M annually.

The economy is turning around, and our state has been at the forefront of the nation’s charge forward. Yet, even with these positive signs, there is still a large amount of people who need help in Indiana and Hamilton County. Every dollar matters in this economic climate, especially for low-income Hoosiers who are working hard to keep their house heated. It’s also incredibly helpful and impactful for families that we continue to wear our hearts on our sleeves this holiday season and volunteer at church, local soup kitchens, Gleaners Food Bank or the Good Samaritan Network of Hamilton County to name a few. 
 
Special food drives and Thanksgiving events will be taking place for those in need over the next couple of weeks like the Thanksgiving Food Basket on November 23rd at the Hamilton County Fairgrounds. There will be some prep work done on the 17th that will also serve as a good volunteer opportunity. The rewarding feeling that comes with helping people is truly uplifting, especially this time of year. 
 
As we get closer to Christmas, toy drives can make a kid’s holiday season all the merrier. It also relieves stress on parents knowing there are presents under their Christmas tree this year. A couple of local events include the Christmas Assistance Distribution on December 14th being hosted at the Hamilton County Fairgrounds; the Noblesville Fire Department’s annual food and toy drive with donation drop offs at any fire station or City Hall for distribution on December 14th; and the Christmas Eve Meal Delivery on December 24th being put on by White River Christian Church. 
 
Volunteers are needed for all of these events and many more. You can go to www.gsnlive.org and schedule a time to sign up and help. Also, be on the lookout for red barrels! Hamilton County is placing red barrels throughout the county to collect canned goods, new clothing and toys.
 
There are countless opportunities to make a difference in people’s lives this year, and each of us have a role to play in making our neighborhoods, county and state a better place to live, work and raise a family. We are known for our Hoosier hospitality; let’s put it on display again this year and bring holiday cheer to those in need. As the weather turns cold, be sure to bundle up and stay warm!

-30-

My column also appears in the Times in Noblesville.
Contact Information:
Name: Nicholas Goodwin
Phone: (317) 232-9831
Email: nicholas.goodwin@iga.in.gov
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