Outreach center receives grant to continue help with utilities

Outreach center receives grant to continue help with utilities

Outreach center receives grant to continue help with utilitiesGLOVERVILLE—More needy people in the Horse Creek Valley region of the state will be able to keep the lights on at home thanks to a recent grant given to Our Lady of the Valley Catholic Center.

On March 8, the United Way of Aiken County awarded $21,000 from its Emergency Food and Shelter Program to the center to help individuals and families pay utility bills.

“We’ve been seeing more and more people each month because of the economy, and a lot of them are asking for help to keep electricity, gas and water on,” said Daughters of Charity Sister Mary Jean Doyle, director of the outreach.

“The people who need help are of all ages, from all over the spectrum,” she said. “The economy has been hitting everyone, and all the cold weather this winter hasn’t helped. This money is a tremendous help because we’ll be able to reach out to many more people.”

She said the center gave utility aid to 22 families in January and 21 in February. For fiscal year 2009-2010, they have paid $23,000 worth of utility bills. Funds for the assistance come from grants and donations from the community.

Sister Mary Jean said many who turn to the center for help have so little money they are facing a choice between paying utilities and buying food for their families.

The unusually cold winter was hard on many people in the Valley area, she said, because they live in old mill houses, which don’t have proper insulation. A lack of adequate heat can be especially dangerous for children and the elderly.

The recent recession dealt yet another blow to the Horse Creek Valley area, which had already been hit with massive job losses as textile mills shut down. The largest was the Avondale Mills plant in Graniteville, which closed in 2006.

The outreach offers many other services, including an emergency food pantry and food program for senior citizens, GED classes for adults, and English as a Second Language classes. The Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul have been working there since 1977.

Sister Mary Jean said the center also works with larger groups such as Community Action and Area Churches Together Serving to identify people in need and provide help or referrals to other agencies.

The center has scheduled hours three days a week to serve clients, but people come by throughout the week seeking utility help, Sister Mary Jean said.

Clients must provide a current photo ID, a social security card, proof of income and a copy of the bill that needs to be paid. The outreach then pays the funds directly to the utility company.