Fuel assistance applications being accepted; donations still needed

Mountain Empire Older Citizens is now accepting applications for heating assistance through its Emergency Fuel Fund for the Elderly.

The program helps pay winter heating expenses for those who are at least age 60 in Lee, Wise and Scott counties and the City of Norton and whose income is at or below 150 percent of the federal poverty level. The fund is used for purchase and delivery of wood, coal, propane, heating oil and to pay electric bills. The program runs from November 1 to March 31. To apply, call MEOC at 276-523-4202.

As we head into colder months, donations are still needed for the fund. The largest annual fundraiser for the program, the MEOC Walkathon, fell short of its $165,000 goal. The event, which was held virtually because of the pandemic, raised just a little more than $140,060 to date.

Last winter, 1,056 older friends and neighbors were assisted with heating-related emergencies at a cost of over $227,000. MEOC needs the community’s continued support to help the frailest, most vulnerable people in need this winter, especially since more assistance requests are anticipated due to increases in the cost of food and other necessities as a result of the pandemic.
In November 2019 alone, MEOC assisted 583 individuals at a cost of $122,717, according to MEOC Emergency Services Director Marsha Craiger. “The need is very real, and families are struggling,” said Craiger.

MEOC Executive Director Michael Wampler is still hopeful donations will meet the $165,000 mark. “Even though we are short of our goal, donations continue to arrive. Our community knows how important this fund is to our elderly residents and has always stepped up to meet the need,” said Wampler.

The Emergency Fuel Fund for the Elderly would not exist without the support of individuals, churches, civic and community groups and businesses. Every donation makes a difference. “We are so grateful to all of our corporate sponsors and others who have supported the Emergency Fuel Fund this year,” said Craiger.

This year’s corporate sponsors include: Hilb Group (CSE Insurance, The Mackie Group and Kerr-Boswell), Lee Health & Rehab Center, Dominion Energy, Old Dominion Power Company, Fasmart/Roadrunner Markets/Scotchman,, Red River Coal Company/Humphreys Enterprises, Lee County Board of Supervisors, Scott County Board of Supervisors, Wise County Board of Supervisors, BB&T/Truist Foundation, University of Virginia’s College at Wise, Erie Insurance, Enterprise, AARP, Reinhart Food Service, MEOC staff and Anthem HealthKeepers Plus.

Contributions can be sent to MEOC, P.O. Box 888, Big Stone Gap, VA 24219. Please designate your contribution for the EFF/Walkathon. You may also donate online.