Keep the Heat On” challenge, a program that the grateful recipient emphasized will make a significant difference in the quality of her life this winter..- For many elderly or disabled individuals, winter is a unsettling time filled with depression brought on by escalating utility bills, social isolation and many other factors. "There is a fear factor in winter when you are alone,” began Susan, 59, who suffers from Rheumatoid arthritis and other ailments that leave her unable to work. She recently received 100 gallons of oil from Bishop Thomas J. Tobin’s “
Susan once enjoyed a successful career as a nonprofit consultant and lived in a spacious apartment on Providence’s East Side. She recalled that she had many clients and conducted more than 50 capital campaigns on behalf of some of Rhode Island’s largest nonprofit organizations.
“I was in the business of taking from the rich and giving it to the needy,” she said, adding that she never dreamed that her circumstances would change and she would someday be looking for assistance.
Susan said she abandoned her career more than a decade ago when her mother was diagnosed with cancer. She drove the ailing woman to doctor’s appointments and chemotherapy treatments as the cancer progressed.
“I did it all by myself,”Susan admitted. “I decided to give up my lifelong profession out of love.”
After her mother died, Susan worked as an office manager for a prominent architectural firm in Providence, but lost her job when she suffered an injury that left her incapacitated and temporarily prevented her from working. She moved back to the family home, honoring the promise that she had made to her dying mother.
“I was just devastated,” she recalled. “I was all alone and emotionally crushed. I had a lot to offer.”
Susan’s life continued to spiral out of control as she lived off a small inheritance and watched her home fall into disrepair.
“I was getting hungry,” she continued. “I didn’t know how to run the house. I didn’t know anything about the furnace.”
Friends suggested that Susan see a social worker, who helped her obtain necessary services and helped her apply for a disability pension.
“I put my head on the desk and just cried,” she remembered of her initial meeting with the state social worker several years ago.
Susan receives a small pension and has to account for every purchase. She worries about having enough oil and getting through the winter is a major concern.
For the past two years, she has received a $650 award from the The Tri-Town Community Action Agency, a private non-profit corporation, which provides a wide range of social services to the disadvantaged of northwestern Rhode Island.
Susan designated the fuel assistance award be sent to a local oil company to draw from the account, but became worried when the funds were almost depleted so early in the season. An oil company secretary then helped Susan to obtain assistance from “Keep the Heat On,” which paid for 100 gallons of heating oil to help keep her house warm.
“My balance was almost tapped out,” she said, noting that she usually keeps the thermometer at 50 degrees to save oil.
After receiving the oil, Susan said she sent a letter to Jim Jahnz, coordinator of the “Keep the Heat On” challenge, expressing her thanks.
“Besides keeping people warm, it gives people peace of mind,” she said. “It’s terrifying to be on a short budget, not knowing what the winter conditions will be in February and March.”
Susan said that she is “enormously grateful and humbled” for the assistance that she received from the “Keep the Heat On” challenge.
“If my situation ever changes, I will certainly send money to “Keep the Heat On” to help someone in this position,” she emphasized. “I want people to know the magnitude of contributing to this cause. It’s more than heat. It’s contributing to one’s sanity. I am very grateful.”
Printed with permission from The Rhode Island Catholic, newspaper for the Diocese of Providence, R.I.