Winter assistance programs in the panhandle

AMARILLO, Texas - Non-profit organizations in the panhandle understand that times are tough right now. Phyllis Cook with Panhandle Community Services says paychecks do not stretch far enough anymore.

"It's been a tremendous need this year, probably one of the biggest years we've had," Cook said.

That is why the Panhandle Community Services and Atmos Energy offer their "Share the Warmth" program, which helps offer assistance in paying utility bills.

"When it gets cold here, it gets cold here and when your heater's not working properly or you can't afford to pay your gas or electric bill, then you need to seek us out," Cook said.

During the winter when temperatures get dangerously low, Atmos Energy tries to keep the gas running.

"The weather is never constant, it's always an extreme so if we see or anticipate a cold front coming in, that's when we will suspend our collection efforts," Atmos Energy spokesman Roy Urrutia said.

But Major Tim Grider with the Salvation Army says as the increase in demand goes up, the requests become hard to fill.

The organizations say that is why donations and energy conservation can help make a big difference right now.

"You are the energy expert in your home... " Urrutia said, "Just be mindful of your thermostat and what you're using at home because, overall, you're paying the bill."