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"Ski for Heat" on January 25!

Ski for Heat and Keep Low-Income Vermonters Warm this Winter

 Calling all skiers, cross-country skiers, and snow shoe enthusiasts! Have fun and contribute to a great cause at area Ski for Heat events on January 25. Ski for Heat is an annual statewide fundraiser that raises money for fuel and utility assistance programs at Southeastern Vermont Community Action (SEVCA) and other Vermont Community Action Agencies. Anyone can participate by skiing, riding, or snowshoeing at participating Vermont Alpine or Nordic centers, many of which offer special deals to those who contribute to or raise funds for Ski for Heat. Participating locations in Windham and Windsor counties include the following Vermont ski centers:

  • Viking Nordic Center, Londonderry
  • Magic Mountain, Londonderry
  • Grafton Ponds Outdoor Center, Grafton
  • Stratton Nordic Center, Stratton Mountain.
  • Brattleboro Outing Club, Brattleboro

“Being warm is such a basic need, but many in our area can’t afford to heat their homes adequately and still have enough for food, housing, medical care, and other necessities,” said Martha Robertson, founder of Ski for Heat. “Our goal is to help as many Vermonters as we can this winter. We provide a fun opportunity for people to make a difference in their communities in a simple, accessible way. We hope to see you on the slopes and trails on January 25!”

The public is invited to participate in any of the following ways:

  1. Simply show up and ski, ride, cross-country ski, or snowshoe at participating Ski for Heat sites on January 25. Many ski areas offer a reduced entry fee or free entrance for those who donate to Ski for Heat, or they will contribute a portion of the day’s proceeds. Some areas require pre-registration to get the special deal offered. Please see the Events tab on the Ski for Heat website (www.skiforheat.org) for a full list of participating ski centers and details about how to participate.
  2. Raise funds from family and friends or request contributions through the Ski for Heat website prior to your participation on January 25.
  3. Make a donation to someone else who will be participating in Ski for Heat or donate directly on the website.

100% of funds raised will be used for heat or utility assistance for people with lower incomes in our communities. Those who raise $100 or more by January 25 will receive a free Ski for Heat long-sleeved shirt and be entered to win a “Ski and Stay” package at a Vermont resort. Other great prizes will be available.

Ski for Heat is a volunteer-run nonprofit started by Martha Robertson 15 years ago to raise funds to keep low-income Vermonters warm. Ski for Heat is presented by the Vermont State Employees Credit Union (VSECU) with support from Ski Vermont and local sponsors including Merchants Bank, Manchester Lion’s Club, Finn & Stone, Clark’s Quality Foods, and the Vermont Country Store. For more information, visit www.skiforheat.org, contact Martha Robertson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., or call Becky Himlin at SEVCA, 802-722-4575, ext. 163. Follow #skiforheat on Facebook for the most current updates.

It’s Tax Season! SEVCA Can Help

File Your Taxes for FREE through SEVCA’s VITA Program

The IRS has estimated that 4 million U.S. residents each year fail to claim tax credits they qualify for, forfeiting nearly $3 billion in tax credits and refunds. Tax benefits like the refundable Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Child Tax Credit (CTC) help eligible working families afford better housing, dependable transportation,and quality child care, and pursue further education and training, thus contributing to their long-term financial stability. In addition, they benefit the local economy.

Help SEVCA spread the word about the free tax preparation services we will provide to qualified low- and moderate-income households through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program between February 3 and April 8. Call SEVCA if you or someone you know:

  •  Is unsure of the tax implications of the Affordable Care Act and needs a little extra help to make sure their return is accurate this year
  • Wants to make sure to claim all tax credits they are eligible for, including the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit
  • Wants to save the $100-$300 they would usually pay a tax preparer to file their taxes

In 2014, SEVCA’s VITA program assisted 491 tax filers, of whom 377 received federal and state refunds amounting to over $600,000, including 293 who qualified for tax credits valued at over $380,000. This year, we’ve recruited 22 volunteer tax preparers, who have undergone extensive training in current tax regulations, including those related to the Affordable Care Act. Each return will be reviewed for accuracy by a certified volunteer. Free tax assistance is available by appointment only at the following locations:

  • SEVCA’s main office in Westminster on Tuesdays (daytime appointments)
  • St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in White River Junction on Mondays (day and early evening appointments available)
  • Windsor Resource Connection Center (Windsor) on alternate Wednesdays

SEVCA is proud to partner again this year with Granite United Way to offer the VITA program to residents in the Upper Valley (White River Junction and Windsor sites). For tax assistance at the Westminster location, interested persons should call 800-464-9951, beginning immediately. To schedule appointments at our Windsor or White River Junction locations, please call 866-444-4211 after January 15.

Give Your Input on Housing and Economic Development Needs

Bellows Falls Hosts Community Meeting on Jan. 15

Concerned about housing, homelessness, and economic opportunities in your communities?

On January 15 from 3 to 5 p.m., the Village of Bellows Falls will host a community meeting to provide input into the HUD Consolidated Plan to be prepared by the Vermont Dept. of Housing and Community Development (DHCD). The Consolidated Plan helps determine the uses for more than $10 million in investment every year through the Community Development Block Grants (CDBG), Home Investment Partnership Grants (HOME), and Emergency Solutions Grants (ESG).

How this money is spent can make a big difference to our communities and residents in need. Make sure your voice is heard! Attend the meeting and/or fill out a survey by clicking on this link.

The meeting will take place at the Bellows Falls Opera House, The Lower Theatre at 7 the Square, Bellows Falls.  For more information, email Arthur Hamlin at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call 802-828-3749, or contact Josh Hanford at 802-828-5201.

 

Cold Snap Coincides with Start of Crisis Fuel Season

CRISIS FUEL ASSISTANCE NOW AVAILABLE

When temperatures plummeted below freezing last week, it was a wake-up call for many of us, and we rushed through the routines of filling our furnaces, changing our filters, and putting on our storm windows. But for many area households, winter is a time of year filled with dread as they face the prospect of stretching their limited income to heat their homes. The good news is that thanks to SEVCA’s Crisis Fuel Program, households that find themselves facing a home heating crisis this winter have somewhere to turn.

“SEVCA can help many qualified households experiencing a fuel emergency,” said Pat Burke, Director of SEVCA’s Family Services Program. “But funding cuts and rule changes mean that households may be eligible for assistance only once all winter. Last year, the state had to find extra money for a “Special Warmth Fund” because there were simply too many people at risk of being without heat. Even with this extra funding, and even though the need was as high as ever, the number of assists SEVCA was able to provide dropped 22% from the previous year.”

To be eligible for Crisis Fuel assistance, households must have incomes below 200% of the Federal Poverty Level, which is based on household size; e.g., $3,976/month (gross) for a family of 4.  There are also other requirements before a household can qualify for help.  One of these, introduced by the state last year, is that families must first apply to the state for Seasonal Fuel assistance before they can be considered for Crisis Fuel (whether or not they are eligible to receive Seasonal Fuel Assistance). That’s why SEVCA urges everyone who might have difficulty meeting their home heating needs this winter to apply for Seasonal Fuel Assistance as soon as possible.

Burke suggests that households check their fuel level regularly to avoid a situation where even Crisis Fuel can’t help them. “Don’t wait until you run out of fuel,” she cautions. “We try to see people as soon as possible, but it could take a few days, and we don’t want people to be in stuck with no heat at all.” The program also can’t pay for an off-route delivery charge, which can be very expensive.

Crisis Fuel Assistance is available from Nov. 24 to approximately mid-March. To apply, schedule an appointment by calling the nearest SEVCA Outreach Office between 8:00 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Monday – Friday. To find the phone number and location of the nearest SEVCA office, call (800) 464-9951 or visit SEVCA’s website – www.sevca.org.  Applicants must bring paystubs or other proof of income, know how much fuel is left in their tank (if oil heat), and provide information about their fuel dealer. SEVCA may also be able to assist households whose furnaces stop working or are unsafe, with an emergency furnace repair or replacement. To apply for Seasonal Fuel, apply online at www.mybenefits.vt.gov or call (800) 479-6151. This is also the number to call for Crisis Fuel Assistance on weekends and holidays, and for furnace repair or replacement assistance on weekends, holidays, or for after-hours emergencies.

Donations Needed for SEVCA's "Care for Kids & Families" Collection Drive

Donate Personal Care Products at SEVCA's "Good Buy" Stores to Receive Discount

SEVCA's "Good Buy" Thrift Stores are now offering customers the opportunity to give to local kids and families in need and get something back at the same time. Now through December 20, everyone who donates personal care items to SEVCA's "Care for Kids & Families" Collection Drive will receive 10% off any purchase at our Good Buy Stores. Diapers, baby formula, shampoo, and toothpaste are some of the items urgently needed by local homeless shelters and food shelves to distribute to families in need.

"The Good Buy Stores already provide a service to our communities by offering low-cost clothing, furniture, and household goods, but we wanted to do something extra around the holidays," said Tonia White, Director of SEVCA's network of stores. "A lot of people think about donating food at this time, but it turns out that one of the biggest unmet needs in our area is actually for baby care and personal care products."

The organizations that will distribute the items collected are the Upper Valley Haven in White River Junction, Our Place Drop-in Center in Bellows Falls, and the Springfield Family Center. They offer groceries, meals, and shelter to hundreds of families in crisis every month, but often come up short when it comes to providing the personal care essentials most people take for granted.

"Once people pay their rent and utilities, they don't even have enough to meet their food needs, so they come to us. They certainly don't have enough money to pay for things like infant formula and diapers, which are extremely expensive," said Lisa Pitcher, Executive Director of Our Place. "And those who are eligible for 3SquaresVT can't use their benefits for anything but food."

Stephanie Thompson, Executive Director of the Springfield Family Center, said she can't keep up with requests for personal care items. "These are not luxuries, they are essential to everyone's health and well-being," she said. "When we have these items in stock, they just go so fast." She pointed out that babies and toddlers in day care are required to have diapers and wipes, which puts an incredible strain on the budgets of families with lower incomes.

Items needed for the Care for Kids & Families Collection Drive include disposable diapers (especially sizes 3, 4, & 5), baby wipes, infant formula, baby lotion and powder, shampoo and conditioner, toothpaste and toothbrushes, deodorant, soap, feminine products, tissues (Kleenex) and toilet paper. "Good Buy" Store locations in Springfield, White River Junction, and Bellows Falls are all accepting donations. Customers may shop when they drop off their contribution or use their 10% discount during a future visit. The location, hours, and contact information for the stores can be found at http://www.sevca.org/thrift-stores/locations or by calling SEVCA at (800) 464-9951.

 

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

Margaret Mead