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The Power of Warmth: Program Helps Coloradans Through Winter

PHOTO: Betty Fornel of Monument with Haley Chapin, executive director, Tri-Lakes Cares. Courtesy: Energy Outreach Colorado
PHOTO: Betty Fornel of Monument with Haley Chapin, executive director, Tri-Lakes Cares. Courtesy: Energy Outreach Colorado
January 21, 2014

MONUMENT, Colo. - Betty Fornel of Monument is 65, and never planned on having to drive and clean school buses during her "golden years". She also didn't plan on having to raise her three grandchildren. Caring for them is made more difficult in the winter months when temperatures dip and her gas bill becomes more than her budget can bear. Recently, Fornel received assistance from Energy Outreach Colorado, and said it made a huge difference in her family's quality of life.

"I don't know if people understand what it's like to be cold, but they do," she said. "They do so much better in school when they're warm, when they have a good place to sleep and they don't have to worry about how many blankets they have to put on."

EOC has assisted more than 118,000 Colorado families with an average of $373 to help with their heating bills, and people can apply for help now. The organization partners with 125 community assistance organizations, including Tri-Lakes Cares in Monument, which helped Fornel. The program is funded through individual donations, foundations and corporation support.

Fornel said she never dreamed she'd need assistance to care for her family, but the staff at Tri-Lakes made her feel at ease.

"And I'll tell you what, it was the hardest thing to ever look in someone's face and say, 'I need help.' And they didn't judge you, they didn't say you were a lazy person, you were a bad person," she recalled. "People who've never gone through this, truly do not understand."

Energy Outreach Colorado runs out of funds every winter as they try to help as many Coloradans in need as possible, and they welcome donations. The organization can be reached at EnergyOutreach.org or 1-866-HEAT-HELP.

Stephanie Carroll Carson, Public News Service - CO