AMARILLO, TX (KFDA) - Here in the month of January, we have plenty of the winter season still ahead of us. In this week’s edition of Good News With Doppler Dave, a simple gesture from some of our area residents may have a huge winter impact on the lives of others.
Winters are just cold in the panhandle. It’s always been that way and people have always had to stay warm.
An elderly friend of mine, before she passed away, had grown up on the XIT Ranch in the ’20s and I asked her about the harsh winters. She told me that all they could do was gather around the pot-bellied stove and ride it out.
Well, people still struggle to stay warm today; not because of the lack of modern conveniences of heat, but in their inability to pay for them.
For residents unable to pay their natural gas bill, help is available instead of having those services discontinued.
Atmos Energy Representative Roy Urrutia explains how their assistance program began saying, “I got a call from the former director of Panhandle Community Services and she said, ‘How dare you as a company sleep at night when you have a lady, an elderly lady, that is on the verge of being turned off for non-payment.'”
Starting right here in Amarillo, Atmos Energy developed a special donor program to raise funds to make payments for those unable to afford services called ‘Share the Warmth’.
“The Share the Warmth program is a customer donor program and this was started back in 2000 when gas prices were high,” Urrutia explained. “And what it is based on is customer donations. They can give a dollar, five dollars, or whatever that monetary dollar amount is, then it is given to customers who are needing it. Plus, it’s tax deductible, so that’s the beauty of it. Or, you can round up your bill to make it even simpler.”
The need for assistance in our community is great and the numbers may surprise you.
“Well, as an example, last year when we had the blitz, we assisted over 400 people,” Urrutia adds. “And so we know there is a need out there and so we probably expect that many or more.”
During the heart of winter time and the peak of home heating season, the need is growing and the number of people needing assistance is increasing.
“Well, we are approaching the middle of our heating season so the bills are starting to mount up so that is a realization that the need is there,” said Urrutia.
Urrutia reminds us that even small gestures in great numbers can have great impact.
“That is the impact you can have,” according to Urrutia. “But, again, if you trickle that down to pennies, that makes a difference. So that’s just Amarillo. Now you count the surrounding communities, that could be a sizable amount of money that you could help a lot of people in need. It gives us a warm feeling that someone else will be warm in return.”
I did a little math on this topic and found out that there is about a $70,000 need to help keep people warm that can’t pay their bills, but there are about 63,000 customers in the Amarillo area.
That means that if all the customers just gave one extra dollar.... we would pretty well take care of that need.
When you share the warmth you are sharing the warmth that you enjoy, you are sharing some love, and you are sharing some good news.