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Winter heating challenges foremost in minds of many

While home heating might be the last thing many area residents are thinking of in the middle of the summer season, the cooler months and associated heating needs are fast approaching. Many people may take for granted a warm, cozy home as the cold weather descends upon the area, but that’s not the case for all Upper Peninsula residents, especially some of area’s the most vulnerable community members.

It turns out that access to firewood for home heating can be a challenge for some local senior citizens, according to the Ishpeming and Negaunee Senior centers and the Little Brothers Friends of the Elderly.

Due to this, the entities are working to address the situation and ensure that older adults in the area have access to the resources they need to stay warm during the bitter winter months.

Through a Better Together Initiative funded partly by the West End Health Foundation, the three organizations are conducting a study on home heating in relation to seniors.

“We know a warm home during long Upper Peninsula winters is essential to seniors’ health, well-being and ability to live independently,” said Leslie Bek, program coordinator of Little Brothers Friends of the Elderly’s Marquette office, in a news release.

The entities are now in the process of conducting surveys to gauge the extent of need for firewood in the homes of seniors, along with the resources that are available to determine a solution.

Two online surveys are available, with one posing the primary question of “Do you need assistance obtaining firewood to heat your home?”

The second survey is geared for those who provide services to seniors and asks “How many households do they know of are in need of firewood assistance and how could you help with a solution?”

While the surveys are meant to provide a general idea of how much need there is for firewood in west end communities, organizers picture a large-scale program in the future.

“We envision a potential program that provides donated firewood during the winter months to year-round residents of the West End who are age 60 or older,” said Elyse Bertucci, director of the Ishpeming Senior Center, in the release. “Those who heat their home solely or partially with wood and due to cost and other concerns do not have a way to get the wood they need. This would be a fuel assistance program that includes cutting, splitting of wood and its delivery and storage. The program would not provide wood heat for the entire heating season but augment a senior’s supply to help with costs. This type of a program would be highly dependent upon volunteers and collaboration with township offices and local organizations such as senior centers, that assist seniors.”

We commend organizers for recognizing and addressing a need for a critical resource in a vulnerable population — no one wants our elders to face the bitter winter months without the home heating supplies they need. We encourage area residents to do their part by filling out the survey that best applies to their situation — if they are in need or may be able to provide assistance — as community participation and feedback is critical to the success of such a program.

Each survey is available online and takes less than five minutes to complete.

The senior survey can be accessed at www.surveymonkey.com/r/TVKXWCF and will remain open through Aug. 15.

The service providers survey can be accessed at www.surveymonkey.com/r/WSK66LJ and will remain open through Sept. 1.

For more information, contact the Ishpeming Senior Center at 906-485-5527, the Negaunee Senior Center at 906-475-6626 or Little Brothers Friends of the Elderly at 906-273-2575.

— The (Marquette) Mining Journal

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