Fuel assistance requests high early in season

MEOC’s emergency heating assistance program is in full swing, with close to 570 households assisted and $101,260 expended in the first six weeks of the program.

“Our phone lines ring nearly nonstop all day as soon as the fuel assistance program opens each year on Nov. 1. And the calls keep coming until the program ends on March 31,” said MEOC Emergency Services Director Marsha Craiger. Requests for help come from low-income older adults in MEOC’s service area of Lee, Scott and Wise counties and the City of Norton who are without heat or in danger of being without heat in their homes. The fund pays electric bills or purchases wood, coal, propane or heating oil for those who qualify for assistance.

The need seems to be even greater this year, noted Craiger. For 2022-2023, the fuel fund assisted 1,023 people at the record expense of a little more than $268,000 in the program’s five-month duration.  The program has already served more than half that number this year in just a month and a half, which underlines the importance of community support since the fuel fund relies entirely on donations. It receives no state or federal funding whatsoever. The fund is used only to pay emergency heating expenses; no administrative costs have ever been paid from it.

MEOC fundraises throughout the year for the Emergency Fuel Fund. The program’s biggest annual fundraiser, the MEOC Walkathon, brought in nearly $160,500 in 2023. Other donations are generated through fundraising letters and a February campaign involving area churches. Many individuals and businesses also donate throughout the year.

The need always surpasses the funding, however. Craiger is hopeful that more donations will arrive as we head into the coldest months of the year. “The community has supported the Emergency Fuel Fund for nearly five decades, and we are always grateful for every donation because it will go directly to help an older person in need. We welcome donations in any amount at any time of year,” said Craiger.

Click HERE to make an online donation or mail checks to MEOC, Attn: EFF, P.O. Box 888, Big Stone Gap, Va. 24219.



The Emergency Fuel Fund for the Elderly has three basic requirements. You must:

  • Be at least age 60.
  • Live in Lee, Scott or Wise counties or the City of Norton.
  • Have income at or below 150 percent of the federal poverty level. For a one-person household, the monthly income limit is $1,823. For a two-person household, the monthly income limit is $2,465.

How it helps

Those who qualify may receive assistance once per program year.

The fund will pay up to $300 on one electric bill or purchase two tons of coal, $300 worth of wood or 100 gallons of propane or heating oil.

How to apply

The application process is simple.

Call MEOC at 276-523-4202 and say you are calling to apply for fuel assistance.

You may also go to MEOC’s website at www.meoc.org and click on the “Need Assistance” button on the home page to complete an online application.

You must provide some basic information, including your name, contact information, the number of people in your household and income.

If you request help with an electric bill, you must provide your account number.

If requesting assistance buying propane or heating oil, your tank must be able to hold at least 100 gallons.