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Westport Aims to Keep Residents Warm This Winter

WESTPORT, Conn. – As outside temperatures drop, indoor thermostats go up. In Westport, some residents have trouble heating their homes. But with help from the community, the Department of Human Services can help hundreds of residents stay warm this winter through the Westport Warm-Up Fund.

A collaborative effort of the Department of Human Services, United Way of Coastal Fairfield County, the Westport Woman's Club and the Clergy Association, the Warm-Up Fund provides an extra fuel delivery to qualified residents who receive state heating assistance.

"For the past 11 years, the generosity of our friends and neighbors has made it possible for the Westport Warm-Up Fund to offer fuel assistance to hundreds of elderly, infirm and disadvantaged members of our community," said Director of Human Services Barbara Butler.

Despite state assistance, Butler said these families and individuals struggle to keep their heat on because funding for federal and state energy assistance programs are being cut in half. Also, she said local energy assistance programs have stricter income and asset eligibility guidelines, making it more difficult to qualify for help.

Butler said these factors, coupled with high fuel prices, makes it difficult for residents in need, and often means they will have to pick between heating their homes and other expenses, such as buying groceries or medications, for example.

"Many of our neighbors are dreading the cost of keeping warm this winter," said Butler. "They know that their income, which barely covers the rising costs of food and housing, will not be enough to pay for heat. These neighbors would need to make difficult choices for themselves and their families without the help of the Westport Warm-Up Fund."

Last winter, 270 Westport homes received assistance through the Warm-Up Fund, Butler said. And this year, she said the need has increased. To help meet the demands this winter, the Warm-Up Fund was offered a matching challenge grant from United Way. This means community donations can be doubled up to $25,000.

All money raised for the Warm-Up Fund goes directly to those in need, Butler said. Donations, which are tax-deductible, can be mailed to the Westport Warm Up Fund, Department of Human Services, Westport Town Hall, 110 Myrtle Ave., Westport, CT 06880.

“We come together to ensure that no one is left out in the cold,” Butler said.

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