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Getting assistance with food and heating in Hancock County– Julie Newton Outlines the Programs

Getting assistance with food and heating – Julie Newton Outlines the Programs

Julie Newton volunteers as Director of the Hancock County Thrift Store & Food Pantry and is also the Hancock County Community Service Coordinator for Audubon Area Community Services. She took time out of her busy schedule to provide many details about how the food assistance works in Hancock County, as well as other programs, such as heating assistance.

The Hancock County Thrift Store & Food Pantry is located at 430 Main Cross Street in Hawesville. “The Thrift Store is for Everybody,” Julie said. “I always try to tell that to people. You come and shop and then we can use that money toward the Food Pantry or for whatever need there might be.”

Julie said she’d like to see more people coming in to shop at the Thrift Store and guesses that maybe people can’t get past the “Help Office” name. “We are making a lot more now than we used to several years ago but I still think people can’t get over the name that it used to always be called and think it’s only for people who need help, not realizing that when you come in and shop you actually are giving the help.”

Monday-Thursday from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. are the Thrift Store hours for shopping and dropping off donations. They go by the HC Schools’ schedule for holidays. If the schools are scheduled off – the Pantry and Thrift Store are closed on those days as well. You can check the HC Schools’ website to see the holidays and days off on the calendar. They are both ran completely by volunteers.

The Food Pantry is open on the third Tuesday of the third FULL WEEK of the month, from 1-4 p.m. When you go in and talk to Julie, she will give you a schedule for the full year. “When they come in for the Food Pantry, I also go ahead and go over information for the programs for the heating assistance and all of the other programs we have.”

“We get all of our food from Feeding America, even our monthly ones,” Julie said. “When they call me and say, ‘We have a big delivery, will your county take it?’ – and I say, ‘Yes, we will take it.’ As long as the food is not USDA food (for the monthly food programs that are based on income) then I can give it out to everybody (as an Extra Food Giveaway).”

Anyone in the county can come to get food when she gets these large donations for the Extra Food Giveaways, like the ones in November and June of 2022. Those do not go by income. Hancock County Thrift Store & Food Pantry is where you can check for information such as when the next Extra Food Giveaway will be. Julie’s office number is 270-927-6500 and her email is jnewton@audubon-area.com.

The Senior Commodity Program and the monthly food assistance program are both through Feeding America also and are based on income. She said there are currently 104 seniors (60 and over) on that list and 160-165 on the case-by-case, monthly food program.

Additional Food Pantries in HC
In addition to the HC Food Pantry, there are 3 other pantries in Hancock County: Lewisport Baptist Church’s is the 1st Friday of the month at 9 a.m. Drive-thru. No sign-up needed. Call 270-295-3322; Hawesville Methodist’s is the 2nd Saturday of the month at 8 a.m. Light breakfast served. Show proof of HC residency. Call 270-927-8404; and Blackford Baptist’s is the last Saturday of the month at 10 a.m. Call 270-927-6227 for more information.

Blessing Boxes in HC
There are also Blessing Boxes available at Hawesville IC Catholic Church, Bill’s IGA, New Life Baptist Church, Hilldale Methodist, Hancock Christian Church, Blackford Baptist, Safe Harbor Church and Hawesville Church of Christ. Take what you need and leave what you can for others.

Fall Subsidy Heating Assistance: Nov 7-Dec 16
   There are also heating assistance programs. “We have our fall subsidy program – it’s called LIHEAP (Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program),” Julie said. “It’s going on right now. It started November 7th and it goes through December 16th. It’s for families who are eligible to get a one-time credit on their electric bill, natural gas bill, or they can do propane. It’s just a one time credit. They bring all of their information and we put that into the computer and it will generate how much. They go by the income and the number of people in the household and it tells us the amount.” They send the money directly to the utility companies, either Kenergy, Atmos, City of Lewisport Natural Gas, or SynEnergy (propane).

Crisis Heating Assistance: January 2023 – March 2023
   The other heating assistance program starts in January. “It’s called Crisis,” Julie said, “still with the same program, it’s LIHEAP but, it’s a crisis program. That one runs at the beginning of January to the end of March or until those funds are gone.” You must be past due to receive it, she said. “If their propane tank is like 10% or below, they can come in and apply for propane and they’ll get 200 gallons. And it’s no telling what that might cost at that time. Then, they must be past due on electric balance, on their electric bill or their natural gas bill (in order to receive crisis monies).”

She said they see approximately 200-300 people in the fall subsidy program. “We’ll see a little bit more during that one because you don’t have to be past due. A lot of elderly that qualify will never let their bill go past due. So, I always tell them to come in and apply for this one (fall subsidy) – ‘You’re income-eligible and you don’t have to be past due, come in and get this one-time credit.’”

Julie goes back and forth from her Audubon Area Community Services office to the Thrift Store & Food Pantry. “I don’t have to be there every day. The Food Pantry – it’s about 3 days a month that I’m actually over there really working. The Thrift Store is open 4 days a week and I go in there and check on some things but the volunteers are SO GOOD that I trust them and don’t have to go over there all the time.”

Audubon Area Community Services is located at 225 Main Cross Street in Hawesville. Julie’s office is in the old jail quarters of the courthouse. The phone number is 270-927-6500. The website is http://www.audubon-area.com.

Those who volunteer regularly through the Audubon Area Retired Senior Volunteer Program are: Marilyn McCaslin, Dianne Estes, JoAnn Decker, Maggie Craig, Sage Critcheloe, Kenny Estes, Roger McCaslin, Chris Meyer, Carolyn Payne, Jamita Beaver, Karen Bolin and Donnie Gray, with additional help from Julie’s 2 daughters, Arikah Kratzer and Alesha Newton. “Whenever I need them, they’re there,” she said.

By Jennifer Wimmer

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