Staying Warm and Spreading Holiday Cheer

November 20, 2007

This week marks the start of the holiday season and the unofficial beginning of cold winter days. I am using my normal legislative column to provide information on ways to keep your home heated through the Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP), as well as ways to give back to the community this holiday season.

HEAP Can Help Families Stay Warm This Winter

This year, we must brace again for increases in winter heating costs. In upstate New York, the winter months can be exceptionally cold, so it is important to take measures to stay warm and keep energy costs low.

I urge eligible residents to take advantage of the Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP), a federally-funded initiative that provides home heating assistance grants of $120 to $540 to families to help pay for heating costs. Benefit amounts are based on age and household income, and are paid directly to the utility company. Homeowners with children under the age of six and adults over the age of 60 are considered vulnerable populations making them eligible for benefits. To determine HEAP eligibility and information on where to apply, call toll-free (800) 342-3009.

Some simple, yet often overlooked energy savers include lowering the thermostat on hot water heaters to 120 degrees, installing low-flow faucets and showerheads, insulating hot water tanks, and repairing leaky faucets as they waste gallons of water. For additional savings, use cold water when washing clothes, keep showers to 10 minutes or less and turn off lights in rooms not in use. For more energy-saving tips, visit

Helping Those in Need

The holiday season is a time to spend with family and friends. However, we cannot forget those in need. In a season of giving, many of us want to pitch in to help and there are a number of charitable organizations where you can do so. Serving Central New York in a variety of ways, these groups provide a message of hope and compassion for the less fortunate. I have put together a list to assist you in locating a local charity looking for your support.

Toys for Tots

The mission of the United States Marine Corps Reserve “Toys for Tots” program is to collect new, unwrapped toys during the holiday season to distribute as Christmas gifts to needy children in our local community. The primary goal of Toys for Tots is to deliver, through a shiny new toy at Christmas, a message of hope to needy youngsters in order to motivate them to become responsible, productive, patriotic citizens and community leaders.

Toys for Tots is always looking for new, unwrapped toys. In the coming days, I will announce the start of my annual drive to help the USMC in their mission to bring holiday joy, including information on where you can drop off your donation.

Catholic Charities

Catholic Charities recognizes human needs at all stages of life with special emphasis on the economically poor and vulnerable. This not-for-profit serves and empowers persons in need, advocates for a just society, and calls forth and collaborates with women and men of good will in fulfillment of its mission.

Catholic Charities offers a wide variety of services to people in need. Programs and services include: counseling, support for victims of domestic violence, group services for troubled adolescents, HIV/AIDS related services, job connection, mediation and mentoring services, and help to elderly individuals in need. To find out how you can help this organization, contact Catholic Charities at (315) 789-2235.

The Salvation Army

Now more than ever, the Salvation Army is serving more people in the United States. They are seeing large increases in the number of Americans seeking the necessities of life – food, shelter, and clothing. More than 33 million people received help from the Salvation Army in 2004. Services include counseling, youth education, rehabilitation services and financial programs. For more information on the Salvation Army, visit them at their Web site.

As you and your loved ones begin celebrating over the course of the next several weeks, I want to extend my kindest wishes to everyone. May you have a safe and warm holiday season, and I hope that you are able to share some holiday joy with those in need. This may be a hectic, busy time of year, but I feel that everybody should be able to take at least a little time out of their schedules to ensure a good time for all. The holidays usually bring out the best in everyone, so I encourage you to try to donate what you can and volunteer for the sake of others.