Dollar Energy Fund Celebrates 35 Years

April 18th, 2018


On April 19, 2018, Dollar Energy Fund will mark its 35th anniversary of helping our neighbors in need and kick off a year-long celebration to recognize the milestone. Since 1983, our organization has assisted 530,000 households by distributing more than $146 million in utility assistance. What began as a small coalition of concerned community and business leaders, has grown to become one of the largest hardship funds in the country.

The History of Dollar Energy Fund

While volunteering with a Pittsburgh television station’s community outreach efforts in 1983, Betty Ann Simon found herself inundated with calls from limited-income individuals seeking help with their mounting utility bills. This led local religious and community leaders to recognize that far too many of their less fortunate neighbors were unable to afford the cost of heat, electricity and water. In response to the growing crisis, a coalition of 24 community leaders formed Dollar Energy Fund. Since its inception, Dollar Energy Fund has been working to fulfill its mission to improve the quality of life for households experiencing hardships by providing utility assistance and other services that lead to self-sufficiency.

The grassroots effort, first operating with one employee in the basement of a church, was quickly joined by Duquesne Light Company and Peoples Natural Gas to help the organization’s limited-income customers. Dollar Energy Fund and the “Add-a-Buck for the Out-of-Luck” donation campaign were born. The next year, a second employee was hired and two years later the staff moved from the church to the Wightman School in Squirrel Hill where they remained until 1993. In 1993, the offices were moved to Pittsburgh’s Southside.

Many additional utility companies joined and donations steadily increased. Unfortunately, so did the need. Soon, Dollar Energy Fund was receiving thousands of applications and providing millions of dollars in utility grants each year. The organization responded to the need and stepped up fundraising efforts.

Then and Now

Many aspects of the organization are the same today as they were in 1983. The majority of funding is obtained through private donations and matching utility shareholder credits; each Hardship Program application is reviewed individually; and the focus is still on our clients and the mission. Dollar Energy Fund has also changed with the times. The organization, whose headquarters in Pittsburgh’s Southside features a state-of-the-art call center, has implemented iPartner, a custom web-based grants management system to assist in the administration of the Hardship Program. The number of utility partners has significantly increased and as a result, so has the number of clients Dollar Energy Fund is able to assist on an annual basis. Our capital and technological improvements have reduced grant distribution from two to four weeks to 24-48 hours, enabling those in need to get more immediate relief during a utility crisis.

As a part of a social enterprise venture, Dollar Energy Fund has grown its services. The organization now administers additional limited-income programs for a number of utility companies and has more than 147 full-time, part-time, casual and temporary employees.

Dollar Energy Fund has grown to become the largest hardship fund in Pennsylvania and one of the largest in the nation. The organization has provided $146 million in utility assistance grants to more than 530,000 limited-income households – approximately 1.6 million individuals. The organization currently serves limited-income utility customers in twelve states, but additional expansions and utility partnerships continue to establish Dollar Energy Fund’s presence in other regions.

Though much has changed since 1983, the need to help our working poor and elderly neighbors remains, and Dollar Energy Fund is still working to fulfill its mission and meet the need.

Help Us Celebrate

We are excited to celebrate another major milestone in the history of our organization. The City of Pittsburgh will recognize Dollar Energy Fund with a proclamation during the City Council meeting on Tuesday, April 24, 2018 at 10:00 a.m.

Stay tuned for more celebrations, fundraisers and community outreach as we observe this milestone throughout the year. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter for more updates.

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