.- With his home heating fuel tank empty and the unseasonably mild temperatures waning at the end of October, Leo Tremblay resorted to covering himself with blankets during the day, and sleeping in layers of clothing at night in order to keep warm in the drafty trailer that has served as his home since 1976.
When even the layers of blankets could not stop him from shivering as the mercury dropped, he visited the diocese’s Project Hope office in Pawtucket to apply for fuel assistance through the diocese’s “Keep the Heat On” program.
“I was crying, I didn’t know what to do,” Tremblay said in his home last week following the delivery of 100 gallons of kerosene, provided through the program.
With overnight temperatures dipping below the freezing point, Bishop Thomas J. Tobin last week authorized a $50,000 donation from the Catholic Charity Appeal – which provides critical financial support to a number of ministries and programs that work to meet the spiritual, educational and social needs of more than 200,000 Rhode Islanders – to “Keep the Heat On” to begin providing immediate assistance to those in need.
Sponsored by the diocese since 2005 when home heating oil prices skyrocketed, “Keep the Heat On,” provides heating assistance to Rhode Islanders who have exhausted all other public and private forms of assistance.
Since its inception, the program has raised more than $1.7 million to help more than 6,500 Rhode Island families and individuals coping with financial struggles in paying their oil, gas or electric heating bills.
Over the last seven seasons, Bishop Tobin has authorized $450,000 in grants from the Catholic Charity Appeal in support of “Keep the Heat On,” which is also funded through donations from generous individuals and businesses who believe that no Rhode Island family should be forced to live without heat during the winter months.
Last week, the bishop visited with Tremblay in his home following the fuel delivery, presenting him with prayer cards, including an image of the new pontiff that was recently blessed by Pope Francis himself in Rome, and offering his assurance that he would keep him in his prayers.
Throughout the trailer the bishop took note of the many testaments to the faith that Tremblay has drawn strength and comfort from to help him through the trying times he has faced in his 84 years.
Among several statues of Jesus and the Blessed Mother, a plaque of Blessed John Paul II and an artist’s rendering of The Last Supper, there are also reminders of the more difficult moments in his life.
To the right of the entrance hangs the studio portrait which he and his late wife Mary posed for following their wedding at St. Charles Borromeo Parish in Providence. Mary passed away three years ago. They had been married for 55 years.
On the opposite wall is a baby picture of a child who succumbed to illness nearly 50 years ago, before reaching the age of two. The thought of his passing brings tears to Tremblay’s eyes, and he still finds it difficult even now to talk about it.
He lives alone on an annual income of approximately $8,500, which he receives from Social Security. Earlier in his life, he worked with his hands as a mechanic, as well as in the jewelry industry.
To help him survive the cold winters for the last several years he has been an annual recipient of diocesan fuel assistance through the “Keep the Heat On” program, and has received federal help through the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), annually as well.
He heats his home with kerosene, which traditionally has a much higher price than oil. Last week, the price of kerosene was $4.40 per gallon, compared to $3.40 per gallon for oil.
With federal LIHEAP funds not scheduled to be released until at least the end of November, and his application for assistance from the Blackstone Valley Community Action Program still pending, Tremblay is grateful for the immediate support once again provided by the diocese at a critical time.
“The diocese has helped me quite a bit,” Tremblay said of the heating assistance he has received over the last few years from “Keep the Heat On.”
Bishop Tobin was moved by the visit to Tremblay’s modest trailer home, noting how his life story is both challenging and inspiring at the same time.
“The situation in which this gentleman is living is very difficult and challenging, but his own good will and his own faith are very strong. So if we can help him in some small, but important way, that’s terrific,” Bishop Tobin said.
Since 2005, “Keep the Heat On,” has served as a crucial safety net for individuals such as Tremblay who are finding it increasingly difficult to make ends meet during the winter months, and who have exhausted all other public and private forms of heating assistance.
“It is my hope that through this critical program, which is funded in part through the Catholic Charity Appeal, Rhode Islanders in need will have another means by which to keep their homes warm this winter,” the bishop said.
Posted with permission from Rhode Island Cahtolic, official publication of the Diocese of Providence.