BIG STONE GAP — With the cold months looming, Mountain Empire Older Citizens’ Emergency Fuel Fund for the Elderly has received $169,362 in donations — recently boosted by a $5,000 donation from the Wellmont Foundation.
Margaret Sturgill, director of MEOC’s Emergency Services Program, said Friday that it has received notice from the HOME (Helping Our Mobile Elderly) Foundation, based in California, that it will once again provide a $8,000 challenge grant for the emergency fuel program. The foundation will match dollar for dollar up to $8,000 any new donations to the fund.
To meet growing numbers and needs of the region’s older citizens, MEOC officials said additional funds need to be raised to make it through this winter’s heating season. They project a need for approximately $240,000 to meet requests for emergency assistance. Last winter, the fund responded to 1,604 requests.
Sturgill said those numbers continue to rise annually as more and more older citizens of Lee, Wise and Scott counties and Norton find themselves trapped in emergency situations.
“As in past years, there was strong and widespread community support from all over Southwest Virginia on walkathon Sunday,” Sturgill said, referring to MEOC’s largest fund-raising event for the Emergency Fuel Fund.
“People of all ages and backgrounds came out to support the walkathon and the Emergency Fuel Fund. Many say the reasons are twofold: They want to be good neighbors ... and they know that 100 percent of their donations will directly assist an older person trapped in an emergency situation this winter,” Sturgill said.
All money raised for the fund directly assists older persons. None is spent for overhead expenses to administer the program.
The challenge grant is the third year in a row the HOME Foundation has helped MEOC’s Emergency Fuel Fund. In 2010, the foundation awarded a $10,000 grant, and last year it awarded a $8,500 challenge grant. The group selects only a few community-based organizations each year to award grants.
MEOC Executive Director Marilyn Pace Maxwell said MEOC is honored to be a recipient again this year and have the opportunity to boost the fund in such a manner.
“If we can raise at least $8,000 in new funding following the walkathon, then the HOME Foundation will match that amount, resulting in a $16,000 increase to this winter’s Emergency Fuel Fund total,” Maxwell said. The challenge “gives us an opportunity to get serious about meeting this year’s needed funding for this life-saving program. We are issuing a call to everyone reading this to make a special donation to MEOC in response to this challenge grant.”
Donations to the fund can be sent to MEOC Attn: Emergency Fuel Fund, P.O. Box 888, Big Stone Gap, VA 24219. Call MEOC’s Rachel Helton at (276) 523-4202 for more information. To specifically assist in helping MEOC take advance of the challenge grant, write “HOME Challenge Grant” on your envelope.
Online contributions can be made on MEOC’s Web site at www.meoc.org using PayPal.