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January 2, 2014

Non-profits offer utility bill help for area residents

DUNCAN — Though the holidays are over, there are still many residents in the community who are in need.

Thankfully, there are a few local non-profits who make it their mission to help these families and individuals with food, bill assistance and clothing. In Duncan, one of those is Christians Concerned, a agency of the United Way of Stephens County.

“We were busy during the holidays with a lot of people in need,” said Jackie Marler, 2013 president of the Christians Concerned Board of Directors and long-time volunteer. “We’ve also been busy since Christmas with people still needing help.”

Despite there being several people come through the organization needing food, there was some food given out through other entities which helped save some of their supplies. One example is the food baskets First United Methodist Church put together.

“We took names for them of people to give the baskets to,” Marler said.

“We also got so many food donations during the holidays. People in Duncan are so giving; we recovered just fine.”

From schools and churches to clubs and individuals, Marler said their pantry is looking decent following Thanksgiving and Christmas. What really needs attention from the community is utility bills.

Since 2005, Christians Concerned has helped hundreds of residents with their heating and cooling bills. There is a $100 per assistance limit for an entire year for one family.

A few families face a $300 shut-off bill and some have already had their power shut off. In the extreme cold of winter or heat of summer, this can be a dangerous situation.

Participants in the Warm Up Round Up Program opt in to have their bill rounded up to the next highest dollar. Those cents are used directly for helping those in need pay their bills.

While you may look at your bill and wonder why you would want to pay more for another person, the maximum one household will pay for the Warm Up Round Up Program is less than $12 a year.

To begin participating in the program, visit the City of Duncan to fill out the opt in form.

“If people want to help Christians Concerned, another way is to give supplies for the office and we are also in need of a walk-in freezer,” Marler said. “We could also always use more people for help. We are so thankful for all the community does for us.”

Marlow Samaritans expressed similar sentiments as Christians Concerned. Though they had many come to them for help with food during the last two months — they handed out close to 230 Christmas baskets to families — the pantry is almost restocked.

“Marlow Sonic did another food drive which brought approximately 100 pounds of food to restock,” said Carolyn Lowe, Marlow Samaritans director. “We will be able to order from the Regional Food Bank the second week of January, so we should be restocked for our normal monthly distribution.”

The organization’s clothing resale shop is also in good shape, Lowe said. Even during Christmas, there have been donations of clothing. However, as with Christians Concerned, the main issue is utilities.

“Marlow’s bills will be going up, so there will be more people in need of help,” she said. “We’re so grateful for our community and how they’ve stepped up to help those in need. It’s heartwarming to see how our community feels about the people as a whole.”

When giving monetary donations, Marlow Samaritans asks you specify what you would like your contributions used for — food or helping with utility bills.

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