On April 19, 2021, Dollar Energy Fund will mark its 38th anniversary of helping our neighbors in need with utility assistance. What began as a small community effort, has grown to become one of the largest hardship funds for limited-income families across the country.
Dollar Energy Fund was founded on April 19, 1983, in Western Pennsylvania by a coalition of concerned community and business leaders.
In 1983, Betty Ann Simon was working as a volunteer for KDKA’s “Call for Action,” a program that helped people find agencies to assist them in solving problems. She found herself inundated with calls from low-income individuals seeking help with their mounting utility bills. Betty Ann was compelled to help, so she reached out to her contacts from various regional religious and social agencies. 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.
Dollar Energy Fund was headquartered at Synod Hall in the Saint Paul Cathedral in Oakland. The grassroots effort started contacting utility companies and executives agreed to contribute on a dollar-for-dollar basis. For every dollar raised, the utility company would also give one dollar to help a family in need. During its first year, Dollar Energy Fund’s Hardship Program distributed $397,200 to 1,218 households in Pennsylvania.
Betty Ann worked tirelessly for two decades directly addressing the daily struggles faced by thousands of limited-income households in Pennsylvania. From her position as a founder in 1983, to her active service on the Board until her passing in 2002, she focused on developing ways to immediately provide assistance to families facing difficulties in affording safe and adequate utility service.
Our organization has since grown to become the largest hardship fund in Pennsylvania and one of the largest in the country. For 38 years, we’ve served the limited-income community by providing $170 million in utility assistance grants to more than 605,000 limited-income families and individuals.
Dollar Energy Fund began with three utility partners – Duquesne Light Company, Columbia Gas of Pennsylvania, and Peoples Natural Gas – and 24 community-based agencies in Western Pennsylvania. We expanded beyond Pennsylvania in 2008 with the addition of a Hardship Program in West Virginia. Since then, we’ve extended our reach into Ohio, Virginia, Tennessee and Maryland in 2009; Texas and Louisiana in 2011; Arkansas in 2013; California and Kentucky in 2014; Connecticut in 2016; Indiana in 2019; and most recently, Nebraska in 2020.
Today, our organization administers Hardship Programs for more than 45 utility companies across 14 states. Dollar Energy Fund partners with over 450 community-based organizations throughout our service territory. These organizations handle application intake for our programs while also connecting those in need with other forms of assistance. This approach puts at-risk households in touch with additional services—such as food, childcare and career assistance.
Our Unique Funding Model
As Betty Ann Simon intended, our unique funding model provides a dollar-for-dollar match from our partnering utility companies for almost every donation we receive. The utility companies also make a separate donation to cover our administrative fees, so 100 percent of all individual donations are used to provide utility assistance grants to limited-income households.
Though much has changed since 1983, many aspects of Dollar Energy Fund remain the same. 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 of helping neighbors in need.
As Dollar Energy Fund continues to expand, so does the need for utility assistance. Dollar Energy Fund is still working to fulfill its mission of helping families on their path to self-sufficiency. If you would like to help a neighbor in need, please visit www.dollarenergy.org/donate.
A new season brings a new opportunity to make your home more energy-efficient. Here are a few simple tips to improve the comfort of your home as warmer temperatures arrive this spring, while also saving money on utility bills.
Use the breeze at night to cool your home without switching on air conditioners.
Block the Sun
Shade your home from direct sunlight – use shades, drapes and awnings to block the sun from heating your home.
Move the cooking outside on warm spring days to keep the heat out of your home.
Clean Out the Refrigerator
By removing unneeded and expired food, air will circulate more efficiently inside the fridge. Clear dust from the coils behind your fridge to reduce energy consumption.
Adjust the Ceiling Fan
Move the small switch on the side of your ceiling fan to make the blades rotate counterclockwise and create a cool breeze. If you feel airflow when standing directly under the fan, it’s working.
Turn Down the Water Heater
Switch your water heater temperature to the warm setting (120°F).
Give AC a Tuneup
Check and replace your air filters regularly and schedule annual maintenance with a qualified technician.
Seal Air Leaks
Use low-cost caulk or weather stripping to keep warm air from seeping in.
For more tips on how to conserve water outdoors this season, click here.
Metropolitan Utilities District and Omaha Public Power District have seen a 38% increase in the number of customers requesting assistance with their bills since the pandemic began. The need, while up this past year, is constant in our communities. That’s why the utilities work so hard to generate funds for their assistance programs.
M.U.D. and OPPD are teaming up for the 14th annual Heat the Streets Run & Walk for Warmth. It takes place this Saturday, March 6. This year, it’s being held virtually via www.HeatTheStreetsOmaha.com. The event is hosted during the cold winter months to bring attention to those who struggle to keep the lights on and heat their homes.
Virtual one-mile walk price: $25 (Children 12 and under free with paid adult.)
Funds raised through registrations and donations are administered by Dollar Energy Fund and split between M.U.D.’s Home Fund and OPPD’s Energy Assistance Program.
OPPD and M.U.D. encourage participants to complete the 5K run or one-mile walk on March 6 on their own – in neighborhoods, local trails, or even on a treadmill. Participants in the 5K may submit their results online. Awards will be mailed to the first-, second- and third-place male and female runners in each of the following age divisions:
12 and under, 13-19, 20-29, 30-39, 40-49, 50-59, and 60+
Help a neighbor in need
As we head into the home stretch, the event has raised nearly $88,000 of its $100,000 goal.
“Donations in support of these programs have a significant impact in the community and further our ability to provide services to those who have nowhere else to turn,” said Chad Quinn, chief executive officer of Dollar Energy Fund.
“The pandemic has had a huge impact on demand for the services we provide,” said Maj. Greg Thompson, divisional commander of the Omaha-based Salvation Army Western Division, one of 41 agencies that partners with the utilities and Dollar Energy Fund. “We’ve seen that practically across the board.”
Inner Rail Food Hall, a collective of individual family-run restaurants at Aksarben Village, 1911 So. 67th St., is also supporting the cause. Now through March 15th, you can purchase a $12 meal to donate to local healthcare heroes working on the frontline of the pandemic. And $4 from each meal purchased will go toward local utility assistance programs.
Matt Taylor, Inner Rail regional director, said since the pandemic started last year, he’s been inspired by watching his vendors, even as they struggled to support their own families and businesses, support their neighbors in need.
“Inner Rail is a supportive place for our internal community, and a welcoming gathering place for our community at large,” he said. “We are so proud to be able to continue this service virtually and contact-free by partnering with Heat the Streets this year.”
Tanya Cook, director, M.U.D. Board of Directors, and Janece Mollhoff, director, OPPD Board of Directors, alongside her husband, Wayne Mollhoff, are co-chairing this year’s event.
“Keeping homes warm and safe has taken on an even higher priority within the last year,” said Director Cook.
Director Molhoff said it’s been wonderful to see so many come together to help lessen the burden for others. “We need to support our communities now and through the recovery.”
Distribution of funding
Funds raised are administered by Dollar Energy Fund, Inc., a registered 501(c)3, and then split between M.U.D.’s Home Fund and OPPD’s Energy Assistance Program to provide local assistance to those in need.
Dollar Energy’s Fund’s 13th Annual Warmathon, which was held on February 11, raised $175,510 during the radio-based fundraiser hosted on Entercom’s KDKA News Radio (KDKA-AM / 100.1FM). The effort will provide heat-related utility assistance for 487 additional households—more than 1,470 individuals—through Dollar Energy Fund’s Hardship Program.
“We are extremely grateful for the support given during the Warmathon because it means 487 more households in our region won’t have to face the winter months without safe utility services,” said Chad Quinn, chief executive officer of Dollar Energy Fund. “This support couldn’t have come at a better time as a high number of our neighbors are struggling right now due to COVID-related impacts. Dollar Energy Fund is proud to be a resource for those who have nowhere else to turn, especially during these difficult and unprecedented times”
This year, 241 individual donors became Neighborhood Heroes with a donation or $180 or more. A donation at this level, when combined with the utility matching funds, provides utility assistance for a household in need. All Neighborhood Heroes are entered into a drawing to win free utilities for a year.
Warmathon donors at various support levels were also eligible to receive a variety of incentives throughout the day, including gift certificates and products from event sponsors and entrance into raffles for prizes. Incentive sponsors for the event were Air Pro Heating & Cooling, Moon Golf Club, Mr. Waterheater, Levin Furniture, Totin’s Diner, Betsy Ann Chocolates, Smallman Street Deli, Sarris Candies, Oakmont Bakery, Matt Mertz Plumbing, Cucina Bella, Pizza Hut, Napa Prime Chophouse & Cigar Bar, Off the Hook, Metropolitan Windows, Altmeyer’s Bed Bath Home, Voss TV & Appliance, Nasco Roofing, Monte Cello’s, Joseph Tambellini Restaurant, Candelore’s Barking Beauties and Coit Cleaning and Restoration.
The Warmathon has raised more than $3.27 million for local, limited-income families since 2009.
Donations to support the Warmathon are still be accepted. Those wishing to contribute can do so by mailing a check to Dollar Energy Fund at Box 42329, Pittsburgh, PA 15203; or by visiting www.warmathon.com.
Dollar Energy Fund raised more than $275,000 during its 7th annual Cool Down for Warmth campaign on January 28, all with the help of local business leaders, sponsors, utility partners and many generous community individuals. The amount raised will provide assistance for approximately 765 families in Western Pennsylvania who are struggling to stay warm in their homes this winter. Though the event is over, donations are still coming in! Those who wish to help local families in need may continue to donate online at www.dollarenergy.org/donate.
Dollar Energy Fund’s Cool Down for Warmth, powered by Dynegy, took place in partnership with KDKA-TV’s Pittsburgh Today Live (PTL), and provided an opportunity for the community to make a donation in support of local families. The event typically includes the construction of a large ice house in Market Square that is open to the public, but Dollar Energy Fund had to change plans due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This year, Mastro Gourmet Quality Ice built an ice news studio and other ice sculptures in Gateway Center to be showcased during PTL’s live broadcast.
Over the course of the week, many supporters signed up on CrowdRise to raise funds and awareness for the thousands of families in our region without heat-related utility service. Many individuals and teams achieved their fundraising goals, including DLC’s Subzero Heroes, FirstEnergy, AEC Group, Pennsylvania Bar Association’s Public Utility Law Section, Columbia Gas of Pennsylvania, and Peoples. Dollar Energy Fund’s Board of Directors also exceeded its fundraising goal with the help of members, Kyle O’Connor and Michael McGrath. Others showed their support by making a donation and sharing the event on social media.
All donations from this event were matched dollar-for-dollar by our local utility partners and 100% will go directly to support local Western Pennsylvania families who are struggling to restore or maintain basic utility service.
On behalf of the limited-income households we will continue to assist this year, thank you to everyone who supported our event! Follow us on Facebook and Twitter for more updates on future fundraisers, like our Warmathon taking place on February 11.
Imagine the stress of approaching the cold months with an apprehension that goes beyond snowy roads and is instead derived from the question no family should have to ask: will I make it through the winter? Limited-income families in our city are trying to keep their homes warm so their children can sleep at night. They are struggling to keep their pipes from freezing so they can shower and cook dinner. They will stretch their thin incomes and still not come up with the necessary funds to stay warm. But, you can help!
Dollar Energy Fund’s Cool Down for Warmth, powered by Dynegy, will host its 7th annual event virtually on Thursday, January 28 in partnership with KDKA-TV’s Pittsburgh Today Live (PTL). The annual ice house will not be constructed in the middle of Market Square, but the goal of this televised campaign remains the same – to build awareness of the many families who will go without heat during the harsh winter months, while attempting to raise money for utility assistance grants.
There are many ways you can get involved and help a neighbor in need:
Sign up to participate as a fundraiser in the Cool Down for Warmth event. Create a team on CrowdRise and reach out to co-workers, family, and friends to work toward raising funds for your neighbors in need.
Make a secure, tax-deductible donation on CrowdRise. All donations will receive a dollar-for-dollar match from our partnering utility companies and 100% of the donations and matching funds will be used to provide utility assistance grants to local families in need through Dollar Energy Fund’s Hardship Program.
Dollar Energy Fund’s Cool Down for Warmth, powered by Dynegy, will host its 7th annual event virtually to raise funds and awareness for those in our region who struggle to afford the cost of heat-related utility services. The event will take place on Thursday, January 28, in partnership with KDKA-TV’s Pittsburgh Today Live (PTL), and will provide an opportunity for the community to make a donation in support of local families by calling 1-800-823-WARM between 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. or by visiting www.dollarenergy.org/cooldownforwarmth2021.
The Cool Down for Warmth typically includes the construction of a large ice house in Market Square that is open to the public, but the organization had to change plans due to COVID-19. This year, ice structures by Mastro Gourmet Ice will be built and carved in Gateway Center and showcased during PTL’s 9:00 a.m. live broadcast on January 28. The public will not be able to view the structures in person.
“While circumstances prevent us from hosting our event as we normally do, we are committed to continuing our efforts to raise awareness and funds for households in our region that are in need of utility assistance during this difficult time.” said Chad Quinn, Dollar Energy Fund’s CEO. “With many facing unprecedented financial uncertainty amid COVID-19, our program may be the only support for those who are struggling to afford basic, heat-related utility services. We encourage anyone interested in learning more about Dollar Energy Fund to tune into PTL and see how they can help spread the warmth to their neighbors.”
All online and phone donations will receive a dollar-for-dollar match from Dollar Energy Fund’s partnering utility companies, which includes Columbia Gas of Pennsylvania, Duquesne Light Company, Peoples Natural Gas and West Penn Power, A FirstEnergy Company. Funds collected will go directly to support local families who are struggling to restore or maintain basic utility service.
This year’s Cool Down for Warmth event is sponsored by Dynegy, UPMC, Citizens Bank of Pennsylvania, First Commonwealth Bank, EQT and BNY Mellon.
Pittsburgh business and community members, including teams from AEC Group, Columbia Gas of Pennsylvania, First Energy, PA Bar Association’s Utility Law Section, members of Dollar Energy Fund’s Board of Directors and other supporters, are utilizing an online crowdfunding platform to raise funds in support of the cause. Donations can be made in support of their efforts by visiting https://charity.gofundme.com/donate/event/cooldownforwarmth2021.
Since the first Cool Down for Warmth in 2015, $1.6 million has been raised to benefit 4,500 households in western Pennsylvania.
About Dollar Energy Fund, Inc.
Dollar Energy fund was founded in 1983 and has grown to become the largest hardship fund in Pennsylvania and one of the largest programs of its kind in the United States. Dollar Energy Fund is a 501 (c) 3 organization in the state of Pennsylvania. Since 1983, the organization has provided $170 million in utility assistance grants to more than 605,000 limited-income families and individuals. The organization also assists limited-income households in West Virginia, Ohio, Virginia, Tennessee, Maryland, Louisiana, Texas, Arkansas, Kentucky, California, Connecticut, Indiana and Nebraska. Individuals interested in contributing to Dollar Energy Fund can do so through their utility bills, by sending donations directly to Box 42329, Pittsburgh, PA 15203 or through the organization’s website. Additional information can be found on Dollar Energy Fund’s website, www.dollarenergy.org.
Use these energy-saving tips to help you save money while staying warm and safe this winter:
Cover drafty doors and windows
Special plastic sheeting kits come with handy pieces of plastic and double-sided tape you need to secure drafty windows. Make sure the plastic is sealed tightly to the frame to help reduce air flow. Use a hairdryer on the plastic to vacuum the seal. You can also replace worn weatherstripping, adjust the door thresholds for a tighter fit, and get a door sweeper that will help block out larger drafts. If a playing card fits the crevice of an outside door or window, you need more weather stripping.
Close your curtains and blinds at night
Temperatures always drop more at night due to the lack of the sun’s energy. Close your curtains at night to reduce the chill you may feel. It may even be worth the investment to get heavier drapes that will provide you with more thermal protection. Don’t use a permanent solution, such as heavy landscaping, because opening the curtains and letting the sun in will warm your home during the day.
Adjust your thermostat
Set your thermostat for 68 degrees. Each degree above that adds to your cost, and setting it higher won’t heat your home any faster. A five-degree lower setting will conserve energy when you plan to be away for many hours.
Reduce heat loss from your fireplace
Make sure your chimney is clear of any debris and inspect your damper to make sure it opens and closes as needed. Be sure to close the damper tightly whenever the fireplace is not in use. Also, invest in tempered glass doors to prevent the warmed air in your home from escaping up the chimney while the fireplace is operating. Most importantly, if you don’t use your fireplace at all, have it professionally plugged and sealed.
Reverse your ceiling fan
Look for a small toggle switch on the fan. After switching it, the blades should be running clockwise. To make sure, stand directly under the fan. You shouldn’t feel a breeze. Running the fan in reverse creates an updraft that sends warmer air pooled near the ceiling back down into the living space.
Use LED holiday lighting
Holiday lights can dramatically increase your electric bill. LED lights are more energy-efficient and last longer than incandescent bulbs. LEDs are also much cooler so there is less risk of fire or injury. LEDs use less power so it’s possible to connecting multiple strings end-to-end safely.
Protect your water pipes
If your pipes aren’t insulated, run water, even at a trickle, to help prevent your pipes from freezing. Even better, save money in the long run by insulating all pipes. Also, open the kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors to allow warmer air to circulate around the plumbing.
Avoid unsafe heating sources
Households without utility heat often rely on unsafe heating sources, such as kerosene heaters, kitchen stoves or ovens, electric space heaters, and neglected fireplaces. Avoid these methods! Contact your utility company or Dollar Energy Fund immediately so we can help you restore and maintain a safer heating source.
Be prepared for inclement winter weather and shut offs
Always have extra blankets, flashlights, portable radios, and a supply of fresh batteries on hand if the power should go off. Report outages to your utility company immediately and get help. (Do not call 911 to report a utility outage.)
Winter storms and ice may cause downed power lines
If you see a downed power line, immediately call your utility company and/or 911. Do not touch trees or limbs on power lines. Stay away from all objects and puddles near power lines. When crews arrive, give them plenty of space to do their work.
Safety is the #1 priority
Check your carbon monoxide detectors and smoke detectors to ensure they are operating properly. Make sure your natural gas meter is visible at all times and accessible for maintenance and emergency responders. Where possible, use a broom instead of a shovel to clear snow away from the natural gas meter to prevent damage. Keep flammable items away from heating vents and sources, such as bedding, clothing, curtains, and rugs.
For more tips and tricks to save money this winter, follow us on Twitter and Facebook!
Sources: Peoples Natural Gas; AEP Ohio; Columbia Gas; PA Public Utility Commission
Now that you’ve survived Thanksgiving, Black Friday and Cyber Monday, it’s time to kick off the charitable season by making a donation on Giving Tuesday. A donation to Dollar Energy Fund is a great way to maximize your charitable dollars. There are many ways to support Dollar Energy Fund on Giving Tuesday. Here are some suggestions on how you can help local families maintain or restore basic utility service this holiday season:
Dollar Energy Fund will be participating in #GiveBigPittsburgh on Giving Tuesday. #GiveBigPittsburgh is a 24-hour online fundraising effort, hosted by Pittsburgh Magazine, and offers nonprofits the chance to raise funds to support their critical missions. Please visit our Give Big Pittsburgh profile page to make your contribution. Every donation will be matched dollar-for-dollar by our partnering Pennsylvania utility companies and 100% of all funds will be used to provide utility assistance grants to local neighbors in need.
In partnership with Metropolitan Utilities District and Omaha Public Power District, Dollar Energy Fund is participating in Share Omaha for Giving Tuesday. Visit our Share Omaha profile page and make a contribution to help Nebraska neighbors in need. 100% of funds raised will be used to provide utility assistance to MUD and OPPD customers in need.
Make a General Donation Online
Make your contribution to Dollar Energy Fund through our secure, web-based donation portal via credit card.
Check the Box
Check the Box on your monthly utility bill. Simply check the box on your utility bill to add a donation of $1 or more to your monthly bill. The donation is automatically added and allows you to continue to make a difference throughout the year as you make your payments. As more and more people are opting out of paper bills, we’ve made it easy for you to sign up online via our virtual Check the Box website.
Join an Event
We are currently raising funds for our upcoming event, Cool Down For Warmth, which will be held virtually on KDKA-TV on January 28 & 29, 2021. If you would like to participate in the event as a fundraiser, visit www.dollarenergy.org/cooldownforwarmth2021.
Through the combined effort of 3WS Pittsburgh and our supporters, the Winter Warm Up Request-A-Thon raised $135,664 to benefit Dollar Energy Fund and our neighbors in need. The amount raised will provide utility assistance to more than 377 Pittsburgh families (1,131 neighbors) during this cold winter.
Our fourth Winter Warm Up Request-A-Thon took place on November 18 and 19, 2020. 94.5 3WS and Dollar Energy Fund teamed up to bring the community a fun way to help families in our region stay warm. Over the course of the two-day event, 3WS listeners took over the station with their song requests. In exchange for a donation, listeners could request any song with the on-air talent Jonny Hartwell, Bonny Diver, Tall Cathy, and Mike Frazer. A variety of donation incentives were also available during the event, such as free turkeys, gift certificates, and a new furnace!
Dollar Energy Fund also wants to extend a big THANK YOU to the staff at 3WS and iHeart Pittsburgh for rallying their listeners to support our cause. They worked to keep everyone socially distanced and safe for this virtual fundraiser and we are so grateful for their accommodations.
If you missed our Winter Warm Up Request-A-Thon, you can always help a neighbor in need by visiting our website. All donations are matched dollar-for-dollar and 100% of funds go directly to assist families in need.
605,000 Grants Provided Throughout Our Organization’s History