Increase in fuel fund requests expected

At 92, Christina Harris of Gate City can’t do quite as much as she once did. But she’s still determined to be as active as possible.

While she can no longer complete heavy-duty housework or tend her yard, chores she once enjoyed, Harris remains motivated and driven. “I don’t give up. I try to put my mind to it and do it, even if I don’t want to,” said Harris, as she rested in a chair in the physical therapy space at Mountain Empire Older Citizens’ Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly in Big Stone Gap. “I’m glad I can still get around,” she added.

PACE works to ensure those age 55 and older who are otherwise eligible for nursing home care can continue living at home. Mountain Empire PACE serves Lee, Scott and Wise counties and the City of Norton.

Harris tries to keep her mind active too. She loves connect-the-dot puzzles. “And she loves Minnie Mouse too,” added Candice Wiggins, a PACE physical therapy assistant.

Harris is also one of the region’s more than 1,000 older adults who received assistance from MEOC’s Emergency Fuel Fund for the Elderly last year at a cost of over $227,000. The fund pays for wood, coal, propane, heating oil or electric bills for those who are at least age 60 and are at or below 150 percent of federal poverty guidelines.

The fuel fund relies solely on donations from individuals, businesses, churches and civic organizations. No money is used for administrative costs.

The program will begin a new season November 1 and is still in need of donations to assist as many of the region’s most vulnerable citizens as possible.

MEOC Emergency Services Director Marsha Craiger anticipates an increase in fuel assistance requests during the coming winter. The pandemic and resulting cost increase in food and other commodities has placed an even greater financial burden on older individuals already struggling to make ends meet.

If you’d like to donate to the Emergency Fuel Fund for the Elderly, you may mail your contribution to MEOC, PO Box 888, Big Stone Gap, VA 24219. You may also click here to make an online donation.