Change of Leadership Sought to Manage ‘Warm Homes’

A heating assistance program in Londonderry is seeking a change of leadership, but remains committed to serving Londonderry residents in need.

The non-profit Warm Homes, which has served over 500 Londonderry residents unable to afford the cost of heating fuel, is managed by volunteers Kathy Wagner, Carol Connolly and John Conley.

Wagner said they’re in talks with Greater Derry Community Health Services (CHS) and hope to see that organization take over Warm Homes by Nov. 1, the date around when Warm Homes generally begins to see applications for heating fuel assistance come in.

CHS Office Manager Betty Lovejoy said she was uncertain of any discussion with Warm Homes and that no one could comment on the matter.

Because the Town does not have a welfare department, CHS helps Londonderry families secure financial assistance and refers families to various services available.

Like CHS, Wagner said in addition to providing 100-gallon deliveries of heating fuel to Londonderry families in need, Warm Homes would also connect those families with other local services, such as St. Jude’s and the food bank.

“We have gone through a lot where we were questioned if we are a legitimate organization, which disheartened us,” Wagner said. “A couple of years ago we were thinking about closing.”

Wagner said Warm Homes doesn’t implement a strict metric for determining who qualifies for assistance through the program. Applicants were accepted based on their need as described to Wagner and Connolly or through referrals.

“We were lax and we came to find we need to have a qualifying system,” said Wagner. “We just don’t have the time to do it anymore. It’s a very time consuming process.”

The purpose of the non-profit was to help residents who don’t meet the requirements necessary to qualify for assistance by a very small amount, for example elderly residents on fixed incomes who miss the cutoff by only $50, as well as residents who are dealing with a serious illness in the family or who are in need, but too embarrassed to ask for help, according to Wagner. She said she often received donations from residents Warm Homes assisted once they were back on their feet.

“Having a program on the local community level makes you aware of who needs it and who is already getting a lot of assistance,” she said. “It is unfortunate some people abuse the system. Because the system is so large, things like that happen. But the local control of Warm Homes made sure the right people are getting help.”

Wagner said she and her fellow managers plan to ensure that if CHS takes over Warm Homes, funds available to the non-profit will continue to subsidize relief for Londonderry residents only.

After stepping down as the managers for Warm Homes, Wagner said she and Connolly plan to continue fundraising for the non-profit.

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