At the home of a North Providence family on October 31, 2005, The Most Rev. Thomas J. Tobin, Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence, began the Keep the Heat On challenge as home heating costs reached record highs. In announcing this heating assistance campaign, The Bishop presented the family with a $2,700 check made payable to New England Gas to restore their utility service. The service was disconnected in May when the couple had fallen behind in their payments, both for the past heating season and in making payments for a prior balance.
Bishop Tobin’s challenge to both the diocesan family and others of good will came as a pledge to match dollar for dollar all donations to this fund up to $75,000 thanks to a grant from the Catholic Charity Fund Appeal. The Bishop notes that this challenge is not in competition with other energy assistance plans, such as the Good Neighbor Energy Fund but rather the final piece of an established network – a program of last resort for those with no place left to turn for heating assistance. Keep the Heat On is a strong example of how the Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence is making a difference in the lives of Rhode Island individuals and families.
In its first year, Keep the Heat On raised $110,736.38 thanks to the generosity of over 520 donors. Combined matching grants form the Catholic Charity Fund, more than $185,000 was made available to assist over 380 Rhode Island households with no place left to turn with their oil and gas heating needs during that first year.
To-date, since it was established in 2005, Keep the Heat On has provided more than $2.5 million in heating assistance to more than 10,800 Rhode Island households through grants from the Catholic diocese and private contributions. While energy prices have subsided since those 2005 highs, the economic downturn has created new challenges for struggling families in Rhode Island. As long as there are Rhode Islanders in need of heating assistance, Keep the Heat On will continue to provide for their needs.
“It is heartening that so many Rhode Islanders have answered this challenge to assist those families in need,” Bishop Tobin has noted. “Rising energy costs have forced many families to turn to the diocese for help and we were able to answer their call. On behalf of the Diocese and the families who have been and will be served by the Keep the Heat On program, I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude for their generous support.”