CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) -
The Easter family spends part of Thursday on their front porch in Hixson enjoying the mild, early December day after an unusually cold November. Their latest heating bill arrived this week. Although it isn't sky high, they dread going to the mailbox throughout the winter.
"By the time you pay electric, your rent and all that, it's pretty well gone," says Wanda Easter, and winter hasn't even officially started on the calendar.
Easter suffers from several health issues and her husband, Edward, also can't work due to injuries from a severe auto accident many years ago. They live on a limited, fixed income and are afraid they'll be left out in the cold if they can't pay their upcoming heating bills. It's also making money tighter at the height of Christmas shopping season.
"It's just hard to make it in the winter with gas. When we lived in the other house we had electric, but here we have gas," explains Easter. "It's hard to come up with it when you draw such little on disability."
Easter was happy to see Channel 3 working together with utility officials to offer financial assistance, via a phone hotline, to those who qualify.
Debra Moss is with AGL Resources, the parent company of Chattanooga Gas. She says applicants could receive as much as $450 toward their heating bills.
"They can apply for any type of heating assistance. That could be gas, electric, coal, wood, oil. Whatever source of fuel they use to heat their home," says Moss.
It's the sixth year for the hotline, and Moss says there's been a steady flow of calls throughout the day.
"We can't even lay the phones down. We're literally just pushing the button and letting the next call come through," adds Moss.
There's a great need out there and many people, like Easter, are grateful for those willing to help.
"A lot of people, in the winter time, that need it really bad," says Easter.
The hotline number is 423-266-5483. It closes this evening, Thursday, December 4 at 6:30, but after tonight you can call the United Way at 2-1-1 for information.