Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Celebrating 25 Years of Energy Assistance to Georgia Families

/PRNewswire/ -- Heating Energy Assistance Team, Inc., an Atlanta-based nonprofit organization that is Georgia's oldest statewide fuel fund, recently celebrated 25 years of providing energy assistance to Georgians statewide, thanks to H.E.A.T.'s partnership with community-minded organizations like AGL Resources, Georgia Natural Gas, SCANA Energy, Gas South, the Municipal Gas Authority of Georgia, and many more.

During the past 25 years, H.E.A.T. has raised nearly $17 million in energy assistance for more than 82,000 families. "It's a mighty good thing that a program like H.E.A.T. does such good work," H.E.A.T. recipient Evelyn Gregory told celebration attendees. "I've been able to get help with my heating bills at the beginning of the heating season, and I'm so grateful of that." Gregory, a widow of 10 years, lives on a fixed income and often has to choose between buying groceries and staying warm during the winter. Thousands of Georgians face that choice every year.

H.E.A.T., originally established by Atlanta Gas Light Company in 1983, has helped address the energy needs of low-income Georgians by joining forces with concerned citizens, businesses and state government. When the Georgia General Assembly deregulated the state's natural gas industry, H.E.A.T. became a separate 501 (c) (3) nonprofit tax-exempt entity in May 2000.

Georgia Public Service Commission (PSC) Chairman Chuck Eaton, keynote speaker at the celebration, praised H.E.A.T. and said that the best way the commission could help Georgians is by keeping the cost of heating down. "Electricity demand is growing by 1,000 megawatts a year in Georgia," he said. "Coal, nuclear and natural gas can be used to manufacture electricity, but there are pro's and con's to each of those. In 2007, 33 percent of natural gas use was for electric generation, so that caused upward pressure on prices. We have to be diversified and keep all options on the table - not just natural gas, but also coal, nuclear, biomass, solar and wind. There's no easy answer, but it's a mistake to oversimplify this problem."

During the celebration Joan Martin, wife of U.S. Senate candidate Jim Martin, spoke on his behalf, emphasizing that her husband was actively involved with H.E.A.T. beginning in January 1983. In his prepared remarks, he said, "The partnership between the Georgia Department of Human Resources, the community action agencies, the federal government, the PSC and H.E.A.T. is the envy of the nation. Federal, state, nonprofit, private individuals and business working together to assist the elderly, disabled and poor stay warm. It is simply a miracle."

H.E.A.T. staff and the board of directors, consisting of volunteer business and consumer leaders from around the state, work diligently to raise funds throughout the year. "Thousands of families cope with poverty, unemployment and high energy costs every winter," says H.E.A.T. Board Chairman Chris Strippelhoff. "With the generosity of Georgia citizens and the energy industry, H.E.A.T. has helped so many families in need - but there remains much to be done."

For more information about H.E.A.T. or to donate online, go to www.heatga.org .

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