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Melvin Robinson, Kimi Bragdon and their daughter Mikaila

Cold hard facts: HeatShare testimony

Added on Monday, January 21, 2013

If you’ve ever wondered how difficult life would be without heat, lights, TV and other modern conveniences, Melvin Robinson, Kimi Bragdon and their daughter Mikaila can tell you all about it.

The Burnsville family had no heat or electricity for 10 long days last fall after their power was shut off.

“Believe me, a bathroom without light is not fun,” Melvin said. “We had to run an extension cord from an outside outlet to our microwave and a lamp. The refrigerator didn’t work so we filled a cooler with ice every day. You learn to get really creative.”

Weeks earlier, somebody stole a cashier’s check from Kimi’s car while she was at work. It was the family’s rent money. Suddenly, they had two choices: keep the electricity on and be evicted, or pay rent and live in a house without power.

“We were at a point where it made more financial sense to move,” Melvin said. “But that would have meant taking Mikaila away from all her friends. That one bill literally caused a ripple effect that touched every area of our lives.”

The family searched for financial assistance but was denied by several agencies. In a last-ditch effort, they stopped by The Salvation Army’s satellite office in Burnsville and met with social worker Patti Estep. She told them about Salvation Army HeatShare, a utility assistance program for people and families with no place left to turn.

Problem solved.

“The family needed $756 to get their power back on – HeatShare paid $526 and they were able to pay $230,” Patti said.

Less than 24 hours later, the family’s power – and life – had been restored.

“Patti cut through all the red tape,” Melvin said. “The best part was she actually cared. She eased our fears and was really calming – we weren’t a number to her. The help she gave us was the boost we needed to get back on track. We’re all caught up on our bills now.”

Funding Challenges

HeatShare funding is going cold. In the past two years, donations from Minnesota residents dipped 16 percent while the need has simultaneously risen. Of the 39,000 Minnesota families that requested HeatShare assistance in 2012, only 4,200 received it due to lack of funding.

HeatShare is offered at most Salvation Army centers of operation in Minnesota. At the West 7th Salvation Army in St. Paul, for example, 2013 funding has fallen to about $69,000 from $85,000 in 2012. They could easily spend $150,000 this year.

If you’d like to warm the home of a family in need this winter, you can make a HeatShare donation right now. You can also donate through your monthly utility bill, as most statements include a HeatShare donation option.

About HeatShare

HeatShare is unlike other heat assistance programs because it’s based almost exclusively on need. Though families must first prove they’ve been denied county or other assistance, their eligibility for HeatShare is then determined by only two factors: need and available HeatShare funding.

“Sometimes bad things happen to families that are doing everything right,” said Mike McGlone, HeatShare director. “That’s where HeatShare comes in. It’s a safety net for people with no place left to turn.”

Since 1982, HeatShare has provided $32 million worth of assistance to seniors, disabled persons and families experiencing a financial emergency.