It’s February 2 and already the has spent their entire town budget line – $45,500, shares Pat Andriole, director of the social service center. Daily, the center is fielding more than 30 phone calls from new people looking for help paying like utility bills, rents and mortgages. Now the center is running on support of donations and grants until the new budget is passed and in effect this coming July.
“It has always been my premise and particularly in the past three or four years when the economy has sunk so low,” commented Andriole, “that government can’t do everything and I don’t think they should. I think you need to go to the private sector.”
Lucky for the Counseling Center and the clients they serve, the Branford Community Foundation will be matching up to $10,000 in donations for a six-week span starting Feb. 14 (through March 19). The BCF is teaming up with the Guilford Community Foundation and the Madison Foundation to provide fuel assistance through a joint initiative Foundations Fuel Families. Donations for fuel assistance (up to $10,000 total) will be matched for each town by each foundation (see details about how to submit local contributions below). The campaign will be launched at 10 a.m. on Feb. 14 at the Guilford Free Library, 67 Park St.; the community is invited to attend.
Andriole who is also the Vice President of the BCF, said that three foundations got together to come up with a joint fundraising effort. Given the current fuel crisis and the rising cost of gasoline, kerosene and propane, they foundations decided fuel assistant would be the most helpful for their residents. “Even though those three towns are supposed to be… not so many people who have needs… that’s certainly not the case,” said Andriole.
Earlier this week, Andriole said 44 calls came into the Branford Counseling Center for basic needs assistance. Of those calls, half were for people seeking assistance in paying heating bills. Come April, Andriole added, winter protection, which prevents utility companies from turning heat off, stops. Peoples’ heat will be shut off and bills will be waiting, said Andriole. I just anticipate that we are going to be inundated with requests to pay heating bills.
While the Counseling Center’s Basic Needs Program helps people to pay those bills, the grant from the BCF will allow them to help even more. While they can’t pay entire bills for residents, Andriole said the center will help clients get on a payment program with utility companies, front part of the bill and then work with clients to come up with part of the cash themselves.
The help from the center, is vital for many as one Branford resident shares. A single mother who has a teenage son with autism and a teenage daughter with ADHD said, “Without the Branford Counseling Center, I’d be lost.” Asking for her name to be withheld, the resident said she’s been receiving assistance from the center’s Basic Needs Program for about seven years. In addition to fuel assistance and utility assistance, the center has also helped her to get her children properly medicated so they can attend school and reap the rewards of education. “Before my children were on medication it was complete chaos… that’s what Branford Counseling Center gives us… they give us stability,” she said.
In addition to those seeking fuel assistance, Andriole shares that 45 percent of the calls received are for rent and mortgage assistance. “It’s the biggest year, we’ve ever had of people who are unable to pay their rents,” said Andriole. “We’re looking at a new portion for the community who is asking for help. We’re looking at people who have lost their jobs or are going to a lower paying job, maybe not unemployment, and they still have their mortgage or their rent and they have their car payments and they have a kid in college and they still have those same expenses but are not brining in the same amount of money.”
With no end in site, Andriole said she’s grateful to have the additional money for fuel assistance coming from the BCF but the longtime client and single mother of two puts it best: “I think there’s many, many people in the community who would be lost without the Branford Counseling Center.”
Donate to the Foundations Fuel Families:
Make checks payable to:
Branford Community FoundationP.O. Box 462
Branford, CT; 06405, note Fuel Assistance in the memo
(Money to be distributed to the Basic Needs Clients of the Branford Counseling Center)
P.O. Box 35
Guilford, CT 06437, note Fuel Assistance in the memo OR donate online at www.guilfordfoundation.org
(Money to be distributed to the clients of the Guilford Social Services)