Franklin County Families Receive Help And Hope Through HEAP

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Families in Franklin County without gas or electric service are turning to Impact Community Action.

Officials with Impact Community Action had anticipated opening their doors at 5 a.m. Monday to accommodate greater numbers of people in need. They ended up opening an hour earlier.

“They didn’t make us wait out here. I got here at 3:40. They let us in the door at 4,” said Lisa Kosakowski.

Kosakowski sat chatting outside with Michelle Sanders. Sanders was still waiting to be seen.

“My number is 185. And the last one they were on was 66,” Sanders said.

Kosakowski and Sanders are among the estimated 10-thousand Franklin County residents whose households have had their electricity or gas service disconnected. Impact spokeswoman Shawna Gibbs says that’s due to a number of reasons: unemployment or under-employment, the loss of a spouse, divorce or other reasons. The situation is worse because of the economy.

“The economy is tough and more people have to turn to us for help,” Gibbs says.

That help can be as much as $175 per household. It helps clients catch up on their gas or electric bills or get their service reconnected. That’s what brought Rhonda Wharton to Impact. Her gas, which she uses for cooking and water heating, had been disconnected for months.

“The bill got behind. I wasn’t able to keep up with it due to my electric bill and I had to come up with money for them so it got kind of tough to keep up my payment for the gas. So I got shut off,” Wharton says.

Even so Wharton says she’s learned to cope with her circumstances.

“That means heating my stuff up in my microwave because my electricity is on so I got to do what I got to do to keep clean and my kids going to school and eating and so forth,” Wharton says.

The waiting rooms at Impact Community Action were overflowing with clients. The agency’s philosophy is “hope inspiring help.” For people like Rhonda Wharton, getting assistance is worth the wait.

“Most people are pretty much upbeat. We all know that the service says that when we leave out of here today it’s going to get taken care of,” Wharton says.