Town creates conduit for utility bill relief

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PENDLETON — Pendleton Clerk-Treasurer Willie Boles said he and town utility office manager Tracie Dodd were talking last winter about what could be done to help people struggling to pay their utility bills.
“We just had an abundance of people in real need,” Boles said.
That discussion, fueled by individual and corporate donations, led to a program that is helping people in need, Boles said.
The effort collected about $6,000 this heating season, he said, and has helped people facing challenges, from single parents struggling to make ends meet to individuals facing hardship from medical costs.
The aim is to direct money from those who want to give to those who need the help the most, he said.
“We try to especially do it at Christmastime and like right now, when it’s real cold. Make sure nobody’s shut off,” Boles said.
Donations have come from about 30 individuals and a handful of businesses.
Some donations have come from people who send extra payment for their bills asking for the overpayment to be directed to those in need.
During the December Town Council meeting, Boles said he and Dodd were “knocking on some doors,” collecting money with good results.
“We just got a bunch of good caring people in Pendleton,” he later said.
Dodd reviews customer accounts and determines where there is a need, he said. The credits don’t pay off entire bills, he said, but they do cover enough to keep people in good standing in the department.
“We just put it to good use,” he said.
During the council meeting, Boles said, “I’m proud to say that we set a new record. We only have four people on our list right now that are behind on their utility bill.”
GVC Mortgage, through its Wisehart Foundation, donated $5,000 of the relief funds collected recently, he said, and the town included notes with the bills of those receiving that aid, letting them know the source.
“We just feel that people need to know that there are people out there that want to help them,” Boles said.
Tammy Carey, who co-owns GVC Mortgage and manages the Wisehart Foundation with her two siblings, said she heard about the utility bill need from a friend; she and her siblings decided the effort was one the foundation could support.
“”I try to find good causes in Madison County to help,” she said. Other causes that receive foundation support include Boy Scouts, Alvin D. Brown Memorial Swimming Pool, YMCA, WEEM radio, Outfitters and a local prom dress giveaway.


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