Some elderly and poor citizens found themselves desperate for heat as temperatures dipped into the 20s over the weekend - and funds for assistance with heating bills were depleted.
The coldest part of winter is still to come and many Upson County residents may face that cold without heat in their homes.
Sandy Dill of Upson County's Neighborhood Service Center reports that more than 250 local individuals and families are on a waiting list for the Center's energy assistance program, which helps needy families pay their natural gas bills.
There's just one problem.
After two months, the Center is out of the $53,000 in federal funds that it received for this year's program, which runs from November to March.
"I think people may not be aware of how desperate some people in this community are," Dill said. "I understand that people want to donate to larger organizations like the cancer society or heart association, but at this time the local community needs donations just as badly. I'd rather see those donations go directly to the people here than to those big organizations."
Dill is asking for help from the community's businesses, churches, and civic groups to raise the money needed to sustain the program through the remaining winter months.
"If businesses would donate just $10 a month, we could help so many families," Dill said. "The only way to get people heat is to get more money. The government doesn't have enough funds, so we have to rely on private donations to help these people get through the winter. If we don't get help from the community, we'll have no more funds until March."
Many of the 303 families helped by the Center this year were people who lost their jobs when Thomaston Mills closed, said Dill, who only recently joined the Upson County Center.
But she worries there are even more families in the county in need, who either aren't aware the Service Center exists, or are too embarrassed to ask for help.
"There are people with a lot of pride who have never had to ask for help before," she said. "I want people to feel comfortable coming here and asking for assistance."
For those who can't leave their homes or have no transportation, Dill promises a personal visit from one of the Center's volunteers.
"If they can't get out, we'll come to them," Dill said. "I don't want a lack of transportation to stop anyone from having heat this winter."
Also, senior citizens are a particular concern.
"I got a call today from a 75-year-old man who doesn't have any electricity," Dill said Friday. "He's going to be at home all weekend with no heat. I also worry that a lot of low income seniors aren't aware that they are eligible for a discount on their natural gas bills. If they contact us we can help them apply for that discount."
Dill is also planning to ask for funds from the city and county.
"In other counties, local governments donate some funding each month," Dill said. "Crawford County, for example, gets $500 a month, which would be a huge help to us."
To make a donation to the Neighborhood Service Center call 647-9985 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday, or send checks to 318 W. Gordon Street.