The Transylvania Times -

Community Invited To Help 'Power Up'


October 26, 2017

Courtesy Photo

Mayor Jimmy Harris contributes generously to Sharing House's Power Up program to provide heat for local families with children like these. His store's propane tank is in the background.

Imagine that you are a single mom with four children.

You live with your mother, who takes care of the youngsters because you work two jobs to make ends meet. Winter is coming, your oil tank is empty and fuel companies will only deliver a full tank. Even if you had the money, a tankful lasts only a few weeks during the coldest months.

Actually, this is a true story-and only one of many similar stories in Transylvania County.

To help these families heat their homes, St. Philip's Episcopal Church is holding a dinner on Sunday, Nov. 5, at 5:30 p.m. at the church's fellowship hall.

The money raised will go to a Sharing House program called "Power Up!" This event is open to all. Community members are invited to join church members at the dinner.

Now in its third year, the Power Up program helped 743 families stay warm last winter. The total spent by Sharing House for heating assistance in 2016 was $129,335.

"Twenty percent of the population of Transylvania County will come to Sharing House at least once this year for crisis assistance," said Shelly Webb, the executive director.

In the past, Duke Energy's Share the Warmth program provided a grant of $25,000 to Sharing House for distributing funds for heating assistance, but currently Duke contributes only $5,000.

To help meet the shortfall, Sharing House started Power Up in 2015. The program encourages volunteers to hold small supper fundraisers in their homes. The dinners, coordinated and marketed by Sharing House volunteers Jane Wheeless and Luanne Allgood, have raised $27,000 over the past two years.

To raise additional funds for the program, a retired Brevard High School teacher, Polly Averette, organized the Power Up event at St. Philip's. She hopes that other churches will join the Power Up fundraising drive in future years, because the available resources are stretched too thin.

St. Philip's members Beth and Steve Womble are catering the meal, which will include vegetable and meat lasagna, salad, bread, dessert and a beverage.

There is no charge for the meal, but attendees are encouraged to contribute generous donations to Power Up. Speakers will share information on the Power Up program and the small dinner fundraisers.

In addition, some guests who have turned to Sharing House for their own family heating emergencies have volunteered to circulate during the event and share their stories.

To attend the St. Philip's fundraiser, sign up by calling the church's office at (828) 884-3666 no later than Nov. 1.

Sharing House carefully screens every family to ensure eligibility. One family in particular stands out in Webb's memory: "Last year, a family of a mother and three children living in a thin-walled older farmhouse had closed off rooms by shutting doors. All four were living basically in three rooms. When they came to Sharing House, their oil had run out, and they were heating the kitchen with the stove's oven."

Webb adds that by the time most families come for help, they have fallen behind in their payments to energy providers. Often, they owe as much as $600 and have received cut-off notices.

Sharing House can afford to provide only $200 in assistance to each family.

"We work with them to figure out how best to get through their crisis," said Webb. "We often partner with other agencies, such as the Salvation Army and the Department of Social Services, to pool money to help the family get back on their feet.

"But those agencies have a set amount of funding over a given period of time, and when it is depleted, they regrettably have to turn people away."

Heating assistance is Sharing House's largest expense, and the need has grown exponentially.

Webb notes that the working poor who come to Sharing House often are seasonal employees, such as landscapers, restaurant employees and tourist season workers. They work in the summer to pay off the bills that accrued during the winter and also use their tax refunds to catch up.

"But then during the winter, they strain to meet the basic necessities of life," Webb said. "Winter is a time when food is more expensive, medical emergencies seem to occur, less work is available, and utility bills are higher."


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