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City Utilities and OACAC helping the needy pay utility bills

Project SHARE lets CU customers donate money each bill cycle

December 02, 2010|Jay Scherder | jscherder@ky3.com

SPRINGFIELD, Mo -- As the temperatures begin to drop in the Ozarks, utility bills start going up. For many struggling to get by paying those bills is becoming more difficult. Project SHARE is stepping in, helping those is need this winter season.

The project is actually in it's 29th year. The Ozarks Area Community Action Corporation is seeing a large upswing in those needing help and City Utilites is getting ready to start a marketing campaign to get more people involved.

OACAC is used to dealing with a large demand with not as many funds as needed. "We're seeing more people apply for energy assistance, crisis assistance, bigger bills," OACAC Executive Director Carl Rosenkranz said, "although it's early."

Temperatures are dropping and many people in the Ozarks are having to turn up the thermostat. "Bills sometimes get really high," Rosenkranz said, "and we don't know what we are facing this year." Some simply can't afford to crank the heat. Without help some run the risk of having their power shut off.

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"Waiting does just make the problem worse," said Joel Alexander with City Utilities, "it makes your bill continue to grow as well." That's why City Utilities teamed up with OACAC to create Project SHARE.

"Because of the needs of people in the early 1980's, we needed to try to do this and we started it and had it going ever since," said Rosenkranz.

"We have noticed in the last couple of year with the economic conditions that go on," Alexander said, "some people have not given as much as in years past."

The project allows CU customers to round up their bills, donate a one time amount, or a monthly amount. It all goes to OACAC to help those who need to pay their utility bills. Donations are down for the project, which is why CU is gearing up for a marketing campaign to raise awareness.

"Hopefully some PSA's, some print material, some advertising on buses or avenues like that," Alexander said. CU estimates that if every customer, residential or commercial, donated just one dollar they'd have almost $110,000 for the SHARE program.

"The point about project share is that every penny, every dollar counts," said Alexander.

"With a campaign like this, depending on what it generates, we'll probably be able to help more people," Rosenkranz said.

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