ATLANTA — The Heating Energy Assistance Team (H.E.A.T.), Inc., an Atlanta-based nonprofit organization that provides energy assistance statewide to low-income Georgians, announced that it has provided $1,020,649 to the Georgia Department of Human Resources to assist qualified families who are unable to pay their heating bills.
“Georgia’s low-income families live on extremely tight budgets; they often are forced to choose between buying food or medicine or heating their homes,” said H.E.A.T. Board Chairman Chris Strippelhoff. “This donation will help reach the Georgia households in most need of emergency energy assistance this winter.”
One Georgian’s story
Until January 2008, Woodstock resident Patrick Hlavaty was a full-time musician, playing and teaching piano and guitar. But a sudden diabetic seizure caused him to fall, leaving him unable to walk normally and no longer able to use his left hand to play musical instruments. He was forced to retire without enough resources to make ends meet.
At the time of the seizure, “Mr. Pat,” as he likes to be called, was the sole bread winner for his family. His wife was not able to work after having hip replacement surgery. Their only income was a small teacher’s pension and a limited amount of Social Security.
“I’ve been an independent person all my life,” Hlavaty said. “I’ve always worked. But that one day forced me to depend on other people and organizations. It bothered the heck out of me.”
Concerned about mounting energy bills, Hlavaty applied for energy assistance and received much-needed help to pay his heating bills.
“I want to thank all contributors to H.E.A.T.,” he said, “because without caring people like them, anyone in my situation would not know where to turn.” Hopeful that surgery will help correct his condition, Hlavaty looks forward to playing music again in the future. “I want to be back at work and be self-sufficient again,” he says.
H.E.A.T. funds are distributed by DHR through local community action agencies. Qualified families apply for assistance at the agency that serves their county. Households must meet established guidelines that include income eligibility.
During the past 25 years, H.E.A.T. has distributed nearly $17 million to approximately 82,000 families.
The recent H.E.A.T. donation will be an important addition to federal funds available for energy assistance. “We appreciate this donation so much, “said Mark Washington, assistant DHR commissioner, Division of Family and Children Services, “because we never have enough funds available to help the tremendous number of families in need. H.E.A.T. is an important part of addressing this problem.”
Private citizens and natural gas companies made the financial contributions to H.E.A.T. that resulted in the $1.02 million distribution. Georgia Natural Gas, SCANA Energy, AGL Resources, Gas South, MXenergy, Stream Energy, Infinite Energy, and Blossman Gas all participated. In addition, some of the funds were provided to H.E.A.T. by the Georgia Public Service Commission.
Established in 1983, H.E.A.T. began as a program of Atlanta Gas Light Company. With the deregulation of Georgia’s natural gas industry, H.E.A.T. became a separate 501 (c)(3) nonprofit organization in May 2000. The organization helps address the energy needs of low-income Georgians by joining forces with concerned citizens, businesses and state and local governments. For more information about H.E.A.T., or to donate online, go to www.heatga.org.