Community action agencies prepare for colder weather


Kendall Downing

WEST FRANKFORT, Ill. -  Fall temperatures are upon us. You probably grabbed a heavier jacket as you headed out the door Monday morning. Many of us will likely turn on our heat for the first time if we haven't already.

Community action agencies are preparing for the rush of phone calls and applications that come with the colder months.

Those agencies help low-income residents pay utility bills through the LIHEAP program.

Kim Rutherford's desk is full of folders, but she said she likes it that way.

"We're in full swing. It's totally crazy," she said.

Rutherford is coordinator for the LIHEAP program at Crosswalk Community Action Agency in West Frankfort. They've been taking applications from the elderly and disabled since September, and in the past couple of weeks they've been answering questions about assistance and the government shutdown.

"They were afraid they wouldn't have any money. They were afraid the government shutdown was going to affect their assistance, but we're fine," she said.

Rutherford said applications open for everyone on November 1st, and there's $3 million in aid to be split among Williamson, Franklin, and Jefferson counties, ones that Crosswalk serves.

So how can you save when the temperature starts dropping?

Heating technicians said keeping your unit maintained is most important, but second in line is watching how high you set your thermostat.

"You can keep your thermostat down a little bit, mostly where you're comfortable. It will be fine," said Jeff Darnell with Darnell Heating & Cooling.

Rutherford said her office is prepared for the questions and calls as clients start to walk through the doors.

"People start to panic when it gets colder," said Rutherford.

Ameren Illinois said customers who use natural gas could see a 5% savings this winter. The utility purchased the resource in bulk when prices were lower, and that's how they can pass on the savings.