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December 31, 2018 @ 12:00am

Utilities and Their Customer’s Generosity Continues to Bridge the Gap Between Rising Costs and Limited Incomes

Overwhelming generosity helps keep the heat and power on for households most vulnerable throughout Wisconsin during the bitter cold winter months

The customer donations through utilities and the generosity of donors is so important for what Keep Wisconsin Warm/Cool Fund (KWW/CF) is able to do for people in need. The real unsung heroes have been the tens of thousands of contributors statewide from customers and donors every month. On top of this, thankfully, there has been a growing number of individuals from the Marinette area in northern Wisconsin to Madison in the south, both small and large, who have included Keep Wisconsin Warm/Cool Fund in their estate planning by donating as much as $10,000 each.

“These dollars have been earmarked towards those who are at the highest risk – especially those veterans who are facing homelessness,” says Energy Services, Inc. Executive Director Tim Bruer. “The impact of their dollars is amazing. As we move forward, we’re going to work towards expanding on our efforts to capture more of that generosity because this is a cause that people can touch and feel right in their own communities. In addition to having an incredible 90 percent success rate of those previously facing homelessness our angel donors have made it possible for us to also target veterans with incomes well below the federal poverty level. Over a thousand veterans that own their modest homes have physical disabilities and are considered high energy users, often due to life support systems, have received the financial assistance necessary to reduce their energy cost burden by over a third.

“Those workers and volunteers focusing on our targeting efforts are so emotionally impacted by the tremendous sacrifices and unmet needs they uncover while working to prioritize the KWWCF/Heat and Housing for Heroes targeted assistance towards those most victimized by poverty. In most cases, not only had the veterans been current with their high energy costs, but most had less than $200 to survive on each month. We only wish that our angel donors who have requested to remain anonymous could experience first hand the gratitude of those that they made such a difference in their lives.”

Customers have been able to make many donations through their major utilities. WE Energies has also been one of the original charter member that have really given Keep Wisconsin Warm/Cool Fund and Heat and Housing for Heroes a boost over the years.

“We go all the way back with Keep Wisconsin Warm/Cool Fund … since the start,” says Mike Mueller, Manager of Low Income & Medical Condition Programs for We Energies. “I can remember back when they were a pilot and they have been able to sustain and grow over the years and help more and more people.”

We Energies helps low-income individuals pay their heating bills through a Keep Wisconsin Warm/Cool Fund donation that directly helps families, seniors and others with limited resources pay their energy bills. Making a contribution is easy for We Energies customers and you can make a one-time or monthly contribution, which appears monthly on your energy bill until you end participation.

“We have a way for our customers to make donations through their billing and make direct donations. We, of course, make year-end donations from our company, which have been pretty historic. It’s probably close to $10 million,” Mueller says. “Over the years, we’ve also been a supporter of the annual Golf Outing and other fundraisers of KWW/CF along the way.”

Mueller says that We Energies really appreciates the efforts of KWW/CF and Heat and Housing for Heroes.

“It’s another great safety net that compliments energy assistance. It’s available at times when energy assistance may have run out for different communities,” he says. “I think that with the whole Heat for Heroes initiative, it’s a way to focus on particular in-need-type groups like our veterans.

“With our veterans, specifically, it’s a way to target groups that may have not known about some of the programs that are out there,” Mueller continues. “With the outreach that Tim and his team have done reaching out to these veterans groups, they are getting the people the help that needs it. Some of these are people that weren’t part of the energy assistance network. They didn’t even know about it. So, not only are they helped with Heat for Heroes dollars, but it also connects them in with the whole network of energy assistance and low-income weatherization.” Mueller says that he loves how the customer donations to the Keep Wisconsin Warm/Cool Fund brings all of the major class A utilities together like We Energies, Madison Gas & Electric, Alliant Energy, Exel Energy and Wisconsin Public Service.

“We are all in this together to help so it’s not just an individual utility like ours,” Mueller says. “It’s brought the other utilities closer because we not only work on the issues at the state level but with Keep Wisconsin Warm/Cool Fund, too … all of the major utilities working together.”

Through public, private and community partnerships, KWW/CF provides preventative services and the financial assistance necessary to alleviate potential life-threatening energy-related emergencies during Wisconsin’s harsh winters and blistering-hot summers. Much of this is possible through the generosity of so many great donors throughout the state.

“We have gotten tremendous support from their leaders, their stockholders and their customers, they are also unsung heroes – along with Wisconsinites – because they are really raising millions of dollars annually to provide a safety net for those who are truly victims of poverty,” said Bruer.

“In reality, in decades to come, we felt that it was not going to be government that would provide the support and generosity for that critical survival safety net but it would be utilities, staff, stockholders, and ratepayers-customers that would help,” he adds. “Today, they are responsible for providing the gift of warmth to tens of thousands of our neighbors in need and they literally raise millions of dollars annually.”

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