Non-Profit Agencies Feeling The Pinch To Pay Heating Bills In Cold Months

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UPDATED: Thursday January 23, 2014 6:57 PM

As you sort through your household bills, one you might dread opening this January is your energy bill.

The heat is on, as the cold settles in -- and paying for it this month won't be easy for many Central Ohio non-profit agencies.

And with budgets already stretched thin, every degree, means big dollars when it comes to their bottom lines.

It takes hundreds of volunteers working in 68,000 square feet of space to put out the thousands of meals that come through LifeCare Alliance's Meals on Wheels program every day.

Due the extreme cold last December, LifeCare saw a 235 percent increase in its heating costs, compared to two years ago.

"Well for us, it's about five or six thousand extra dollars per month," said LifeCare Alliance President and CEO Chuck Gehring.

The agency says those higher costs will impact its ability to put food on the table for thousands of Central Ohio's most vulnerable.

"We deliver and prepare and cook a meal on wheel for about $2.50," Gehring said. "So, obviously, that's almost 2,500 meals on wheels that we're spending on heating costs."

At Goodwill Columbus, the temperature at the agency's 29 retail stores, donation centers and residential spaces is controlled using a high-tech monitoring system.

"These just went up a little bit higher, too, so it will fluctuate all day," Senior Property Manager Marci White pointed out. "As it gets colder, these temperatures may drop a little bit."
And every degree makes a difference.

"You can anticipate anywhere from 15 to 25 percent more usage from year to year," said Vice President of Operations and Business Strategy Jim Heinen.

According to the National Weather Service, it was nearly five degrees colder last December than it was the year before.

And those degrees -- add up -- to dollars.

"So one of the things that we will do is say where can we cut back on?" Heinen said. "And things that are disposable that don't impact anybody, those are the areas that we hit."

And with extreme cold in the forecast again next week, balanced budgets may be wishful thinking, for now.

"Well, we're hoping for a really cool summer!" Gehring said.

On an individual level, the state is helping more than 82,000 Ohioans right now who qualify for energy assistance.

The winter crisis program lasts through March 31.

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