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Cold, Costs Push Demand for Heating Help in Weston

Weston residents in need have a friend in the Weston Warm-Up Fund. The group recently sent nearly 4,000 letters to town residents, asking people to help the group care for families and individuals struggling to keep warm this winter.

Dawn Egan, warm-up chairwoman, hopes that the generosity of Weston's residents remains strong. "We know we've been asked to help at least 50 qualified Weston residents," Egan said. The group has been around for nearly three decades and helps seniors living alone as well as young families with children with heating expenses.

The final number of people who receive help won't be known until winter is over, Egan said. "What we do know is that oil prices are up considerably over last year, and so far, cold temperatures are promising above average energy consumption."

The assistance has never been more timely. The federal Low-Income Heating and Energy Assistance Program grant to the state decreased at least $33 million from last year's allocation. Numerous reports indicate the state is also expected cut its heating assistance budget.

The number of homes needing assistance is also growing. Operation Fuel was recently given a $625,000 check from the Northeast Utilities Foundation, doubling the number of Connecticut households it helps with utility costs to 12,000.

"In short, we're expecting exceptional demands at a time of shrinking state resources," Egan said. "And there is a trend, as of last year, that saw modest but meaningful reductions in the number of contributors and the size of the average donation."

Weston's social services department has also seen a rise in demand for its services, said Charlene Chaing-Hillman, social services director.

All contributions are tax deductible (the tax number is 061087836). Donations may be sent to the Weston Warm-Up Fund, Inc., P.O. Box 1254, Weston, CT 06883. For more information, contact Dawn Egan at 203-221-9114.

What are your thoughts on the cuts on federal and state spending for utility assistance? Leave a comment in the section below.

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