Which would you choose: To heat your home or pay for medicine you need? For local households in need, these are the difficult but real choices they will face this winter. One reason is that state and federal budget proposals floated this fall have cut energy assistance funds for households in need to near zero. But HEAT is here to help, and all you have to do to help them to help others is to come to Fireman’s Field, 210 Elm Street, Old Saybrook on Thursday, Nov. 16 between 4 and 6:30 p.m.—and bring your appetite.
For the price of a $10 ticket, each adult gets pasta with meatballs, salad, coffee or a cold drink, and dessert. Children accompanied by adults eat for free.
“It’s a wonderful community event. Every dollar raised and donated goes to HEAT’s Assistance Program,” said HEAT founder Matthew Rubin.
That’s because this dinner event has no overhead or expenses. Use of the Fireman’s Field facility is provided for free by the Old Saybrook Volunteer Fire Department. The food, the drinks, and desserts, are all donated by Stop & Shop, and more than 30 volunteers either work in the kitchen to prepare the food, or help serve it and clean-up afterward. The dedicated kitchen crew volunteers that prepare the pasta and salads include, among others, former police chief Ed Mosca, Bob Antoniac, Todd Steward, and David LaMay.
The pasta dinner and fixings will be served continuously starting at 4 p.m. and, for those too busy to stay and eat, the dinners will be prepared for take-out. Tickets can be purchased at the customer service center at Old Saybrook Stop & Shop and at the Stop & Shop door on Nov. 10.
Each year HEAT’s annual Spaghetti Dinner at Fireman’s Field raises funds to offset the energy bills of local low-income households already qualified by the town’s social services coordinator to receive state assistance due to their lower income.
In 2016, Rubin estimates that the group’s fundraising activities donated about $35,000 to help the Social Services Department pay for the extra fuel deliveries so the neediest local households could stay warm in the winter months.
“In Old Saybrook last year, we got $116,000 from the State of Connecticut’s Energy Assistance Program. With that money, we helped 240 residents offset their energy bills. That’s about $483 per person,” said Social Services Coordinator Sue Consoli. “The state program gives each [qualified] household a set amount of energy assistance, based on the household’s income and disabilities, that ranges from $125 to $670.
“Through donations from HEAT and from the $10,000 we get from the non-profit Operation Fuel, we can supplement these payments. Last year, we called HEAT as early as the Christmas holidays to pay for another fuel delivery to [households in need].”
Consoli is concerned that the budget uncertainty at the federal and state level for social services and energy assistance programs makes support from programs like HEAT even more important this year.
“In the past five years, the number of town households that qualify for all social services programs has gone up approximately 25 percent per year,” said Consoli. “The good thing about Old Saybrook is how many good people there are who want to help.”