Warming Hearts (and Homes) in Winter

A classic scene of embracing the winter season is bundling up on the couch with family and friends, grateful to know winter’s chill and even more so to be able to avoid it at will. Even thinking about it warms the soul like a fireplace heats a room.

“My turtleneck is on. I work in a warm office and live in a warm home,” said Jan Demers, executive director of the Champlain Valley Office of Economic Opportunity (CVOEO). “That isn’t the case for many of our neighbors.”

In Burlington, VT, the average high temperature in December is 33 degrees. The average low? Just 18. And when a family is struggling financially, that often comes at the expense of their heating bills. Each winter, thousands of Vermont residents struggle to heat their homes, and that’s where CVOEO’s WARMTH program makes a difference.

Founded in 1986, WARMTH has helped approximately 80,000 families keep safe and warm throughout the winter season. The program is vitally important during the beginning and end of the heating season, when state and federal assistance programs are not available. During last year’s heating season, the program provided assistance to more than 2,800 households statewide.

“As Vermonters, our staff is all too familiar with the frigid temperatures that hit our region during the winter months,” Community Bank Regional Manager Anita Bourgeois said. “Having heat is not a luxury for our communities, it’s a necessity. And we feel like, if we can help, then we need to do what we can.”

For the second consecutive year, Community Bank is partnering with CVOEO to raise money for the organization’s WARMTH program and help low-income Vermont families stay warm this winter. The bank will match WARMTH donations dollar for dollar from November 27 through December 31, up to a total of $17,500.

Travis Poulin, director of Chittenden Community Action, has worked directly with the people this program supports.

“I saw a young woman last week—let’s call her Jennie—Jennie is living at home and helping care for her disabled mother; they had disconnection notices for both their electricity and their home heating fuel,” Poulin said. “These are the very real, very hard decisions some of our most vulnerable neighbors are making; to choose between electricity and fuel, between food on the table or a warm home.”

Partnerships like this one not only keep individual households safe but also strengthen the community as a whole, fostering a culture of empathy and action.

“I so appreciate the way that Community Bank helps keep families warm,” Demers said.

Participants in the program, many of whom are seniors on fixed incomes, are overwhelmed not just by what the program provides, but by the genuine warmth that the program staff show to those in need. One such participant, says it this way:

“Thank you, thank you, thank you. You do not know how much it meant to me to be able to talk to someone who was so kind and understanding. Since my husband passed it has been difficult to cover all the bills, and I am so grateful for your help.”


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