Wilton Fund Needs Help to Warm Families

WILTON, Conn. – The mild winter has been a boon for Wilton families who need help keeping their houses warm. But the Wilton Warm Up Fund is still running short of funds.

It is now trying to raise enough money to heat these families homes when their grant moneys runs out from the federally funded Norwalk Economic Opportunity Now. And the nearly 70 families are trying to make the money last as long as they can.

“People are being really good about keeping their thermostats down,” said Cathy Pierce, director of Wilton’s Department of Social Services.

“Some of our clients, they literally live in one room. They block off everything else, they have separate zones so they turn the zone downstairs off, and they go upstairs. I mean people are really trying to conserve, but there are some houses where they can’t do that,” Pierce said.

The amount of money given out varies depending on income, number of people in the house and the ages of the people. Families can receive $100 to $1,000 per oil delivery.

“It used to be, for some families, that grant would last most of the winter,” Pierce said.

Last winter, with near constant freezing temperatures and snow, the grant money ran out quickly, and Wilton’s fund was nearly depleted. This year, about 15 more families applied to the town for heating assistance.

“We've never really done fundraising. This is our first effort at it,” Pierce said. “We had to do this.”

This year started with $17,000 in the bank. In the past, the group has had started with more than $30,000, Pierce said. To last through March, she said the fund needs at least $68,000. Last year, it spent more than $31,000 for the grants.

Previously, the fund had collected donations though SERVCO Oil. But with the advent of online bill paying, Pierce said the donations through that avenue have declined.

So now, Social Services has turned to more active fundraising. Thus far, about $47,000 has been raised. “But we’re not where we need to be,” said Peg Koellmer, owner of Realty Seven, who is in charge of the fundraising effort.

And Koellmer said taking over wasn't planned. “There wasn't really a choice. You just do what you have to do.” The other alternative was opening a warmup shelter, and Koellmer said those are expensive.

“I really need some group to say that they’ll take this on,” Koellmer said. The letterhead and a donor list are already done, she said. Someone just needs to make it his or her project for next year.

to follow Daily Voice Wilton and receive free news updates.