Nonprofits aid elderly, disabled in need of heat

Hannah Neumann
Hannah Neumann | Staff Writer

By Sergio Legorreta

Nonprofit organizations in Waco are helping to keep the homes of the elderly and disabled warm, as temperatures dropped substantially.

“Share the Heat” is a campaign by a collaboration of nonprofits to help these individuals. The campaign’s goal is to raise funds to donate portable and safe heaters to those in need. Participating organizations include Meals and Wheels, Friends for Life, Caritas, Act Locally Waco and the Area Agency on Aging of the Heart of Texas.

The Area Agency on Aging has donated heaters to elderly citizens in the past, but its resources were limited this year after the Texas Legislature cut the agency’s budget by $1,500. Misty Stipe, program director, said in past years they were able to purchase 100 heaters at about $20 each. After the budget cut they were only able to purchase 25.

The campaign’s initial goal this year was to distribute 200 heaters.

“As of Wednesday afternoon, we had enough funds for 198 heaters,” Stipe said.

Stipe said after reaching the 200-heater goal, funds will go toward Caritas, which will distribute heaters to the needy under the age of 60.

Becky Guerrero, the Friends for Life regional supervisor of independent living, said many of the people receiving heaters have homes with little insulation against the cold and live on fixed incomes.

“If they’re in need, we give a heater,” Guerrero said. “They’re coming in and going out as quickly as they’re coming in.”

One Waco resident, Willie Edwards, 64, said he is feeling a lot better since he received a heater. His apartment doesn’t have central heating, and his caregiver, Debra Parish, said the apartment had been especially cold and drafty because some of the apartment’s windows don’t close properly.

Parish also said Edwards is living on fixed income, and they were able to turn their gas back on Wednesday after paying outstanding bills. Edwards has not had running water since 1995.

Edwards said the safety feature on the heater, which lets the heater automatically turn off if it falls or turns over, is important to him because he has limited mobility after having suffered three heart attacks and two strokes, all while battling high blood pressure and diabetes.

“Getting around is an issue,” Edwards said.

While Edwards is trying to find a different place to stay because of his difficulty going up and down the stairs to his second-story apartment, the heater will be safe for him to use.

Guerrero said because of limited income, those in need may resort to unsafe heaters, which can put them in danger. She said heaters without the safety mechanism continue to run and could catch on fire if they fell.

“It’s especially concerning for the elderly catching something on fire, as they may not be able to get out of the house quickly enough,” Guerrero said.

The portable heaters may also be a good way to save money. Christina Allred, 82, said she received a heater last year and has been able to cut down on her heating bill.

“I’ve probably saved $10 or $15 off of it per month,” Allred said.

Waco junior Chase Wommack, a volunteer at Friends for Life, said it’s important to show that the Baylor community cares about Waco and those in need.

“You can be a friend to them,” Wommack said. “We want to encourage them through all their hardships that they’ve been through and show them love.”

Turners, Mo., sophomore Selby Lennard, who also volunteers at Friends for Life, said volunteering can affect the volunteers even more than those they help.

“It’s important to take time out of your week to think about someone else,” Lennard said.