Woodward, Okla. —
Home Energy Aid Week for Oklahoma has been declared by Governor Mary Fallin as July 14 through July 21 this year.
The aid week is designed to help Oklahomans with their energy bills such as for electric, gas and propane service. The local Salvation Army will be focusing on raising money for Woodward and Ellis County residents from July 14 to July 22.
"With the heat last year and this year, they (utility bills) are pretty high and people are having difficulties paying them many times," said Betty Ward, executive secretary for Woodward and Ellis counties Salvation Army.
Donation jars will be set up in all 3 Hutch's C-Store locations in Woodward. The convenience stores are located at Williams and Downs, 13th and Oklahoma, and Kevin's Corner (3700 block of Oklahoma Ave.).
Mail in donations will also be accepted at Salvation Army Office, PO Box 542, Woodward, OK 73802.
"Hutch's is so good about helping," Ward said regarding the funds raised through the local convenience stores last year around the Christmas holiday.
Funds raised during this event will be matched by OG&E, Oklahoma Natural Gas (ONG), and Public Service Company of Oklahoma (PSO), 3 of Oklahoma's largest utility companies.
Kathleen O'Shea, OG&E spokesperson, said they partner with The Salvation Army to contribute to an agency who knows how to help the people who need help the most.
"We know that there are people in our community that sometimes struggle to pay their bills and this is just one more thing we do by partnering with The Salvation Army," O'Shea said.
All proceeds collected locally will stay in Woodward and Ellis counties, Ward said.
Those who receive assistance from the funds collected will be determined by a utility committee that meets every week. Ward said applications for assistance can be submitted at 1209 9th St. Applications are accepted based on the applicant's situation such as a loss of job, death in the family, or medical reasons.
"We use our funds wisely to determine who we can help and what the most critical need is," she said.
Ward said they usually only pay a portion of someone's energy bill and will not help with bills month after month. If there is someone who tries to receive assistance once a year but there's a new family in need, she said they will choose the new family over someone who has previously received help.
"It's based on needs and the amount of funds available," Ward said about distribution of energy aid funds. "I think the beautiful part is The Salvation Army works with clients and with companies to keep utilities on (for families)."
In an official proclamation promoting Home Energy Aid Week, Governor Fallin reported that last year, funds raised across the state during the Home Energy Aid Week amounted to $455,032, which went toward assisting 4,335 families consisting of 11,899 Oklahomans facing financial crisis.
"In difficult economic times, inability to pay an energy bill can cause a serious hardship to a family facing a financial emergency," Fallin's proclamation read. "The State of Oklahoma recognizes and appreciates the thousands of utility customers who contribute to these fuel funds."
Locally The Salvation Army was able to serve 56 adults and 57 children in Woodward and Ellis counties last year with the donations collected through the week-long energy aid fundraiser.
Ward said she believes helping people with their utility bills is important because they want to work with people to meet the needs of people in the community. Their ultimate goal is for everybody in the community to have what they need she said.