Energy Share of Montana, a statewide nonprofit, is ramping up for winter by encouraging people in need of emergency help with their energy bills to apply for the organization’s financial assistance program.
The private nonprofit is also seeking donations to fund the program.
Last year, Energy Share helped nearly 3,000 families across Montana with their energy bills, including 366 in Northwest Montana.
The organization, based in Helena, describes itself as a “statewide private nonprofit that helps your neighbors who are facing loss of heat or lights in their home through no fault of their own.”
“Our primary purpose is to help Montanans faced with energy emergencies meet their needs and move towards self-reliance,” it states.
The organization says residents might need help with energy bills due to a wide array of reasons: loss of employment, injuries or hospitalization, broken-down vehicles, the death of a spouse or partner, and more.
The organization works with Human Resource Development Councils across the state, also called Community Action Agencies, which distribute the program’s applications and provide resources on the ground in communities. Each council coordinates a volunteer local energy-share committee, which addresses the specific needs of the community it serves.
The council for this region is Community Action Partnership of Northwest Montana (CAPNM), which serves Flathead, Lake, Lincoln and Sanders counties.
Energy Share of Montana Executive Director Rachel Haberman points out the state of Montana administers the Low Income Energy Assistance Program (LIEAP). For general income-based assistance, Energy Share points applicants to LIEAP, while Haberman’s group deals more with emergency situations.
“We’re really trying to help those people in imminent danger of losing their heat or lights,” she said.
Haberman said CAPNM handles both Energy Share and LIEAP applications, meaning anybody seeking energy assistance of any kind, with or without an emergency situation, can contact the agency and be directed to the appropriate resources.
“They do a great job there in Kalispell,” she said.
Energy Share relies on donations to fund the program, and with temperatures dropping, any donation is valuable.
“One hundred percent of private donations are used to help someone in need,” the nonprofit states.
For information regarding either Energy Share of Montana or LIEAP, people can swing by CAPNM at 214 Main St. in downtown Kalispell or call either 406-758-5433 or 1-800-344-5979.
Energy Share of Montana also administers a weatherization program as well as programs for furnace and water heater safety and efficiency. For more information about these programs and the emergency energy-assistance program, including how to donate, visit www.energysharemt.com or call 1-888-779-7589.
People will also see informational donation envelopes or pledge cards in their November utility bills, while members of electric cooperatives will see the envelopes or cards in the Rural Montana magazine.
For additional information on LIEAP, visit www.dphhs.mt.gov/hcsd/energyassistance.aspx. Households who qualify for LIEAP are also eligible for the state’s weatherization and energy-education programs.