BY LAUREN HENRY
Not all Greene Countians will enjoy a warm home this winter season.
However, a local campaign that has continued for decades promises to help warm many local homes in the weeks and months ahead.
Thanksgiving Day marks the beginning of the annual Coal Fund Campaign, which continues through Dec. 31, although contributions are accepted year-round.
Sponsored by The Greeneville Sun for decades and administered free of charge by Greeneville-Greene County Community Ministries, the Coal Fund Campaign seeks donations to help fellow Greene Countians who would otherwise be unable to heat their homes during the cold-weather season.
Carmen Ricker, executive director of Community Ministries, said the agency will be assisting families through the winter months and until April 30 of next year if funds allow.
"We've never had to quit because of unavailable funds," she said.
Community Ministries, a United Way agency created and sponsored for many years by the Greeneville-Greene County Ministerial Association, also administers the Food Bank, which assists local citizens in need of food.
The Coal Fund Campaign seeks donations from individuals, churches, employee groups, organizations, and businesses for the purpose of heating homes for those in need.
A total of $2,500 in donations to this year's Coal Fund Campaign has already come in, even before the official start of the campaign, Ricker said, and the Sun itself has made a commitment of $2,000 to the campaign.
The newspaper will update contributions to the Coal Fund at least once each week and usually more often.
Ricker said Community Ministries receives requests for heating assistance typically during the first cold snap in October each year. The agency tries to assist some families early if funds are available.
This year, Ricker said, the Fund has already been able to give assistance to 14 families. This was possible using the interest on a restricted endowment.
The families met the criteria to receive early assistance.
Throughout the campaign, Community Ministries staff members screen applicants for heating assistance to ensure that they meet stringent program guidelines.
Ricker said that a record is kept of each client requesting heating assistance, along with their documented monthly income and expenses.
All Coal Fund donations go toward home heating.
In allocating Coal Fund assistance, she said, Community Ministries staff members first try to help families with small children, and homes with individuals who are seriously ill, or who are 70 years of age or older.
Ricker noted that The Wood Ministry helps the Coal Fund Campaign indirectly by providing wood to residences that heat with wood furnaces.
She said the Wood Ministry has delivered 250 loads of wood already this year.
Ricker explained that the multi-church effort helps because the wood given does not cost anything, allowing Community Ministries to assist more families that do not heat using wood.
The annual Coal Fund Campaign runs from Thanksgiving through Dec. 31. However, Community Ministries will accept additional donations throughout the year.
Those who would like to contribute to the Coal Fund can deliver checks (payable to The Coal Fund) or cash directly to the Community Ministries office at 107 N. Cutler St., between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. weekdays.
Or donors may mail gifts to:
The Coal Fund
P.O. Box 545
Greeneville, TN 37744