Heat-Up-St. Louis, a nonprofit organization established four months ago to help Bi-State area disabled and elderly and households with small children announced that they have helped about 2,000 people stay warm this past winter. And the organization unveiled its Cool Down St. Louis efforts to help avoid heat-related deaths and illnesses.
In addition, the charity's assistant treasurer Curt M. Swearingen, a certified public accountant announced that the organization has raised almost $87,000.00 in a three and half-month period and received almost $14,000 in donated services. The donations raised represent about 80% of Heat-Up St. Louis' annual projected contributions. The year-around, nonprofit heating and cooling assistance program has already allocated $86,250.00 in funds to 10 social service and community organizations in Missouri and Illinois. The 15-person all-volunteer board of directors also announced that it only has about $478 in its Truman Bank account. "However, based on our early successes and with strong public support, we should easily reach our projected goal," said Curt M. Swearingen with the firm of Schroeder & Associates, P.C.
"We are extremely excited that neighbors in Missouri and Illinois reached deep into their pockets and pocketbooks to help those less fortunate stay warm this winter,"said Curt M. Swearigen, a certified public accountant with the firm of Schroeder & Associates, P.C. "Also the donated services were needed to support administrative costs in running the program. I would like to thank both the public for its generosity and our board members who also helped to underwrite our activities, so that every cent donated went to the needy." About $10,000 of the donated services to underwrite administrative costs, e.g., printing, postage, deliveries and filings, etc. were donated by founder and president Gentry W. Trotter. In response to help two social service agencies with the high demand of energy assistance this week, Trotter made a direct $5,000.00 cash donation to Heat-Up St. Louis, Inc.
The announcement was made as Heat-Up St. Louis is about to roll-out its new Cool Down St. Louis project, which includes its first fundraiser scheduled for this Saturday and Sunday, at the McGowan Building at 1641 Washington Avenue in downtown St. Louis. Proceeds from the "Be Cool, Stay Cool Charity Hat Sale," will help restore or maintain a home cooling source or purchase air-conditioners for the disabled and elderly in Missouri and Illinois. Area social service and community action agencies representatives will serve as celebrity sales clerks along side Cool Down St. Louis board members.
"This has been one of the region's worst winters, and all we (Heat-Up St. Louis) were attempting to do is support area social service and community action organizations in an effort to find truly qualified individuals and bring a little warmth into their hearts and homes," said Gentry W. Trotter founder and president.
Trotter said that he plans to request at the organization's annual board meeting that Heat-Up St. Louis takes a more activist role in speaking out against unreasonable rate hikes, and in the long term do more on public education, and utility customers' rights. The annual board meeting is in June.
"We are extremely disappointed with the area gas, propane and other energy utilities for increasing their prices, and forcing many of our elderly and low-income neighbors in making a real choice between heating and eating, and other essentials," concluded Trotter.
Although Heat-Up St. Louis is now focusing on its Cool Down St. Louis efforts, Trotter encourages people to still give to winter energy assistance year-around and the money would be used at the beginning of each winter heating season in November.
The North East Community Action Corporation, covering St. Charles county received the second largest allocation of Heat-Up St. Louis funds. "This fast warm-up we experienced last week prompted early requests for air-conditioners...from the elderly and the disabled," said Denise Liebel, county operations director of NECAC. "We believe the severe winter has made people anxious about summer weather. As we get closer to the heat of our St. Louis summers we are grateful that Heat-Up St. Louis will continue serving our community with the Cool Down St. Louis campaign."
"We do not anticipate a state funded program for heat relief this year," said Sherry Killian, Energy Assistance Coordinator for East Missouri Action Agency, (EMAA). "However Cool Down St. Louis would greatly benefit our area." EMAA covers St. Francis, Ste. Genevieve, Iron, and Madison counties.
Also Heat-Up St. Louis officials pointed out that many of the organization's efforts are special event fundraising efforts. In addition, tax-deductible donations may always be made for its winter or cooling efforts in c/o Heat-Up St. Louis or Cool Down St. Louis c/o Truman Bank, P. O. Box 9330, St. Louis, Missouri 63117.
"Higher utility bills are driving people into our doors," said Saundra Hudson, CEO of the Urban League of Madison County. "We have been informed by the county to discontinue accepting disconnect notices, and Heat-Up St. Louis' latest efforts have been the difference for us. We feel bad when an elderly person walks away and we cannot help them. With Heat-Up St. Louis, we would be desperate." Hudson is one of ten community action agencies and social service agencies qualifying needy individuals, using Heat-Up St. Louis as supplementary funds in an effort to restore a home heating source. The Urban League of Madison county covers 25 municipalities in Illinois, and a population roughly of 240,000 persons.
"With the traditional warm St. Louis region weather we are already getting calls from seniors, and believe me the air-conditioning equipment has to run, and people must stay cool this summer. Cool Down St. Louis' funds will be a God send," Charles Hines, director of housing and support services for S.T.E.P., Inc., a social service agency covering St. Louis County.
Although Heat-Up St. Louis has allocated all of its winter energy assistance funding, it noted that many of the area community action and social services agencies' it networks with are still providing energy assistance to individuals who have received their March gas, electric and propane heating bills.
Joseph Hubbard, the founder and president of Catholic Urban Programs of Southern Illinois provided a case study about a ninety-five year old woman living on social security, who called him recently. "Her Social Security is about $580 per month. She received a gas bill of $730 for one month with a total bill over $1,500," said Hubbard. "Government assistance was only able to help with $450, leaving her owing $1,050. Heat-Up St. Louis has certainly been a great support for families in Illinois who fell through the cracks in getting this needed assistance."
Heat-Up St. Louis funds supported more than thirty area utility vendors with natural gas, electric, propane, and home heating oil as home energy sources. Heat-Up St. Louis will provide a year-end audit report of its summer and winter activities after the partnering agencies have fully completed their allocations.
"Heat Up St. Louis has been a blessing for our area. We've had 9,000 individuals coming through our system last winter and Heat-Up St. Louis funds were desperately needed, as supplementary funds toward our heat grants, and so will Cool Down funds, " said Sandy Crider, executive director, Loving Hearts, a social service community outreach program, covering Franklin County.
The nearly $87,000.00 in donations came from Heat-Up St. Louis' first fundraising efforts, which include: The Put A Lid Hat and Cap Winter Sale; Hardee's Rise and Shine for Heat; Schnuck's Scan and Give for Heat; Super Heat Religious Weekend; and general direct-donations to Truman Bank.
Heat-Up St. Louis allocated donations to more than 10 area social service and community action agencies covering 15 Missouri and Illinois counties, and they are: The Illinois Operations, St. Louis County and St. Louis City offices of the Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis, $26,700.00; Urban League of Madison County, $3,500.00; Northeast Community Action Agency of St. Charles County, $21,000.00; Loving Hearts in Franklin County, $4,750; Catholic Community Services of Jefferson County, $4,000; Catholic Urban Programs of Southern Illinois, $4,800; S.T.E.P., Inc., $14,000.00, St. Louis County; East Missouri Action Agency, covering St. Genevieve, Iron and Madison counties, $5,500; and South Central Missouri Community Action Agency of Butler county, $2,000.
"Due to the large increase in utility costs, our agency assisted a record number of needy families many of whom we had never seen before. Through Heat-Up St. Louis, we were able to serve an additional seventy-five people that would have otherwise been left out in the cold," said Todd Richardson, community service director, South Central Missouri Community Action Agency covering Butler county. "We are looking forward to working with Cool Down St. Louis this summer to help our families during the hot summer months ahead."
Cool Down St. Louis is still looking for fundraising opportunities this summer to help the bi-state area's disabled and elderly residents. Anyone interested in helping can call, 314-241-7668. And tax-deductible donations maybe sent to Cool-Down St. Louis, c/o Truman Bank, P.O. Box 9330, St. Louis, Missouri 63117.
In addition, the organization is now taking requests from area social service and community action organizations, who are interested in being considered for donations to help with their cooling or heating efforts in the Bi-state area. Those new agencies interested should send a letter of consideration with a profile on their nonprofit organization to Allocation Committee, Heat-Up St. Louis, c/o Truman Bank, P. O. Box 9330, St. Louis, Missouri 63117.