United Way of North Central Massachusetts Awards over $90,000 for Winter Heating Assistance and Emergency Shelter

Grants distributed to 11 local agencies through two winter weather initiatives

United Way of North Central Massachusetts (UWNCM) recently distributed $93,000 to 11 local agencies to help struggling community members this winter. Grants were made through two funds addressing critical areas of need in cold weather months: the Winter Heating Initiative and Emergency Shelter Fund.

The Winter Heating Initiative is a new program that provides financial assistance for heating expenses to households that have exhausted state heating assistance or fall just short of qualifying. UWNCM has so far raised and distributed $60,000, which includes $25,000 given by the Community Foundation of North Central Massachusetts, $5,000 given by Unitil and donations from community members.

Grants were awarded to five agencies: Athol Area YMCA, Gardner Community Action Committee, Making Opportunity Count, Spanish American Center, and the Winchendon Community Action Committee—the final of which is a first-time UWNCM grant recipient.

Shaina Cunningham, Winchendon Community Action Committee Program Manager, says, “We are so appreciative of the grant and have heard from many people what a tremendous help these funds have been. Some have even told us that without the support, they would not have had heat this winter.”

UWNCM also distributed $33,000 to six agencies through its Emergency Shelter Fund, a long-standing initiative that provides shelter for homeless individuals during extreme winter weather. This round of grants covered motel rooms for over 100 people and was made to Athol Area YMCA, Clear Path for Veterans New England, Ginny’s Helping Hands, Restoration Recovery Center, Salvation Army Athol Corps, and Spanish American Center.

UWNCM Director of Community Impact Judy Tomlinson notes that recipient agencies for both programs were selected to ensure coverage of the entire North Central Massachusetts region. In addition, many recipients are small grassroots organizations that run food pantries, enabling them to get immediate support to local community members.

“With costs for fuel, shelter and other expenses rising, the need in our community is at an all-time high,” says Tomlinson. “UWNCM is all about working with local organizations to meet basic needs such as heating and emergency shelter assistance for families dealing with this crisis.”

Community members can support both the Winter Heating Initiative and Emergency Shelter Fund by making a gift at uwncm.org/donate.

The United Way of North Central Massachusetts serves the communities of Ashburnham, Ashby, Athol, Ayer, Devens, Fitchburg, Gardner, Groton, Harvard, Hubbardston, Leominster, Littleton, Pepperell, Lunenburg, Petersham, Phillipston, Royalston, Shirley, Templeton, Townsend, Westminster and Winchendon.