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Keep Wisconsin Warm/Cool Fund's Heat for Heroes Program Keeps the Heat and Power on and Avoids Crises and Homelessness for Struggling Veterans in Need.

Heat for Heroes Program Continues to Help WI Veterans Facing Energy Crisis

KWW/CF, State of WI- Division of Energy, Housing, and Community Resources, Office of Veterans Affairs, Home Energy Plus, County VSOs, County Energy Assistance Agencies, Vet Centers, other Stakeholders, and Energy services, Inc. work together to help those most in need keep their heat and power on

United States’ military veterans are among the least likely to come forward to ask for help in times of trouble, even when they find themselves facing life threatening situations.  Pride is often the principle barrier for veterans in receiving this much needed assistance.  Recognizing this, Energy Services, Inc. and the Keep Wisconsin Warm/Cool Fund launched its statewide Heat for Heroes Campaign a few years ago.

“In the past two years we have seen an unimaginable amount of impact on the lives of Veterans who had been hopelessly struggling to stay in their homes,” says Noel Ayala, a Veterans Advocate worker for Heat for Heroes. “We are seeing about a 20 or 30 percent increase monthly in the number of referrals and assistance being provided to Veterans threatened with homelessness or an energy-related emergency situation. Since the inception a couple of years ago, we’ve had a 300 percent increase in actual struggling Veterans’ calls for help. We’ve been able, due to the generosity of others,  to help hundreds and hundreds of families that have veterans and also widows of Veterans.”

Like the Keep Wisconsin Warm/Cool Fund, the focused is designed to seamlessly avert life threatening energy related emergencies by helping struggling veterans keep their heat and power on while also providing adequate resource connections with other state, county and veteran services for optimal, long-term household stability. Heat for Heroes helps veterans, who through no fault of their own, are facing an energy-related emergency, where other available resources are delayed, inadequate, or unavailable.

Ayala and others are on the phone most of the day handling the calls with veterans to help them get the assistance they need. It’s a job that he says he truly enjoys.

“It really compliments the new initiative that the state has – the Welcome Home Veterans that are now tackling homeless veterans or those with a related energy crisis situation,” Ayala says. “We are one of the programs that they are calling ‘wrap around’ for all of the services and benefits that veterans need.

 “These wraparound programs help the Veterans stay safely in their homes and make sure that they have medical assistance, they have food, they have housing, and, in our case, their heat and power is kept on,” Ayala says.

“I love serving people and when they call back – many of them even crying – and tell me ‘thank you, thank you, thank you,’ I tell them that I didn’t do it.  It’s the program and I’m just the messenger,” Ayala adds.  “I do love this and it’s an amazing experience.”

TransCanada is a big supporter of Heat for Heroes. “They contributed very generously to the fund’s ability to have staff capacity to handle all of these referrals that are coming into VSOs,” says Energy Services Executive Director Tim Bruer. “They are have committed an amazing $15,000 annually and through their generosity with others, they have made this survival safety net for Veterans possible. Along with Heat For Heroes, they’ve been very supportive in the past, providing us seed money to kick off our corn maze which provided family fun for thousands and broadened significantly the involvement in our community.”

“The impact that we are having is tangible. I and others can see it,” Ayala says. “One of the ways that we measure that is between one season and another we look at how many cases came back from the first season.  There are many who struggle at one point, are glad to be back on their feet and they don’t come back because now they can handle it. The percentage of the cases coming back to us this season was low – we’re talking under 5 percent.  That is a tangible result where we can say, ‘yes, we are having an impact on the community.’”

Much of the success of Heat For Heroes is a direct reflection of our KWW/CF donors- small and large.

To date and subject to change, Wisconsin houses over 413,000 veterans; of which, over 58,000 of those veterans have returned home with service related physical and mental disabilities. Unfortunately, thousands of these disabled veterans wait through the backlog for several months or even years, with appeals, to receive their much needed, and well deserved federal disability benefits. Many of our Wisconsin American heroes have household incomes well below state and federal poverty lines, with over 16,000 Wisconsin veterans currently unemployed. Limited income, disabilities and the lack of resources continue to plague our veterans, forcing them to choose daily what basic life necessities they are willing to go without just to make ends meet.

The Heat for Heroes Campaign is committed to expanding with state, federal and Veteran related services/stakeholders to serve as a resource catalyst for Veterans with unmet needs.

In contrast to the controversies surrounding a number of national Veteran charities, we are proud of the quality of services being provided and the large number of Veterans actually being served with less than 10% of dollars donated being allocated towards administrative costs.  Ayala says, “This is such an important lifeline program and I am also glad to see on a daily basis that we are making such a difference in these heroes’ lives.”

Your contribution to the KWW/CF can make a tremendous difference in veteran’s life. For more information, go to http://www.keepwisconsinwarm.org or call 608891-WARM9276.

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