News

Facing a Heating Crisis? Crisis Fuel Assistance Now Available

Well before the official start of winter, Vermont has seen lower-than-average temperatures and an unseasonably early snowstorm, raising the prospect of another cold, harsh winter. With higher fuel prices this year, hundreds of area households will likely find it difficult or impossible to keep the heat on. In fact, households with low incomes spend an average of about $2,000 more than they can afford on energy costs every year. While many get some assistance through the state’s Seasonal Fuel program, what happens when that’s not enough? For low-income households in Windham and Windsor Counties that are facing a heating emergency, SEVCA’s Crisis Fuel program can be their lifeline. And, as of November 26, that lifeline is once again available.

                “When your fuel is down to a quarter tank or you are facing an electricity disconnection, call us and we’ll do our best to help,” said Pat Burke, Director of SEVCA’s Family Services Program, which provides Crisis Fuel assistance. “But don’t wait until you completely run out of fuel, because it could take 5 – 7 days before a fuel delivery can be arranged, and the Crisis Fuel program cannot cover the fee for a special delivery (or fees for leak and pressure tests for empty propane tanks).” 

          To be eligible for Crisis Fuel assistance, households must have had extenuating circumstances that led to the heating emergency (defined as being very close to being out of fuel or out of fuel without money to buy more), and income at or below 200% of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL), which is based on household size; e.g., $4,184/month (gross) for a family of four. Most households must first apply for and receive Seasonal Fuel assistance before they can be considered for Crisis Fuel. Burke urges all qualified households to apply as soon as possible for the Seasonal Fuel program, so that their application for Crisis Fuel, should they need it, is not delayed. Generally, only one Crisis Fuel assist is provided per household receiving Seasonal Fuel assistance per year (two assists for those who don’t qualify). SEVCA may also be able to arrange an emergency furnace repair or replacement for qualified homeowners whose furnaces stop working or become unsafe to operate.

For more information, call SEVCA toll-free at (800) 464-9951 between 8:00 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Monday – Friday. Applicants in northern Windham County may also call that number to schedule an appointment. Brattleboro area applicants should call (802) 254-2795; Springfield area applicants, (802) 885-6153; and White River Junction area applicants, (802) 295-5215. Applicants must bring paystubs or other proof of income, know how much fuel is left in their tank, and provide information about their fuel dealer. Crisis Fuel Assistance is available from November 26 until the second Friday in April.

For Crisis Fuel Assistance on weekends and holidays ONLY, call 1-866-331-7741 (starting December 1), and for furnace repair or replacement assistance on weekends, holidays, or for after-hours emergencies (starting November 26), call 1-877-295-7998.

                To help bridge the gap between what is covered by the state’s Crisis Fuel program and what is needed by a particular family in crisis, SEVCA raises money through grants and donations. To help keep low-income families warm this winter, individuals may donate to our “Share the Warmth” fund online at http://www.sevca.org/share-the-warmth. Checks may also be sent to 91 Buck Drive, Westminster, VT 05158.

Volunteer for SEVCA’s Free Tax Assistance Program

Great Opportunity to Help your Neighbors and Learn Something Really Useful!

SEVCA and Granite United Way of NH are partnering to offer the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program in upper Windham County and Windsor County, VT. VITA helps low- to moderate- income households by providing free federal and state income tax return preparation services. SEVCA is now recruiting volunteers for the upcoming 2019 tax filing season to help as many families as possible claim the tax credits and refunds available to them.

 We are looking for individuals who are willing and able to commit 3 to 4 hours per week from January 29 – April 15, 2019. Prior tax preparation experience is not necessary, but a commitment to training and certification is required. You’ll receive specialized training from a certified VITA instructor, plus IRS online courses. SEVCA provides all needed materials and software, along with a very supportive training structure. Continuing on-site training and supervision is provided during the tax season.

SEVCA operates VITA sites in:

  • Westminster – SEVCA’s offices at 91 Buck Drive, Westminster, VT
  • White River Junction – St Paul’s Episcopal Church, 749 Hartford Ave, White River Junction, VT
  • Windsor – The Windsor Resource Center,1 Railroad Ave, Windsor, VT 05089

We can meet your schedule and needs! We are most in need of volunteers in Westminster, but could use more volunteers at any of the sites.

There are two volunteer positions. Both work under the supervision of a local Site Coordinator.  Our specific needs are for:

  • Intake Specialists—Greet tax filers, conduct an intake review to make sure all documents are present for a complete and accurate tax return, and offer resources for other financial needs filers may have.
  • Tax Preparers—Interview taxpayers using standardized IRS forms and prepare and submit relevant returns. No previous tax or finance experience necessary, just general computer aptitude and a willingness to learn.

To learn how you can make a difference in your community by becoming a VITA volunteer please contact Leslie Wood at (802) 722-4575, ext. 199 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or. Please put VITA VOLUNTEER in the subject line of your email.

Celebrate Community Solar with SEVCA on Oct. 25!

SEVCA is celebrating the achievement of a critical milestone in our new project, Community Solar for Community Action, and we’d love for you to come celebrate with us!

SEVCA is constructing a solar array at our main office in Westminster, the energy from which will be used to reduce the high energy burdens of area households with low incomes, helping them to keep their homes heated and their utilities on. This innovative project, developed in partnership with the Rural Renewable Energy Alliance (RREAL), will showcase a new, nationally replicable model of energy assistance that addresses energy poverty and environmental sustainability at the same time. Complementing our home weatherization and crisis fuel programs, Community Solar for Community Action (CS4CA) will be an important new tool in our efforts to ensure that all vulnerable households can meet their energy needs now and in the future.

We are pleased to announce that the first phase of CS4CA, the ground-mounted solar array, has been completed!
SEVCA will be dedicating the project to the memory of Harald Schmidtke, SEVCA’s Weatherization Director of 25 years, who passed away on April 2. CS4CA will be a fitting memorial to Harald, whose dedication to improving the lives of our neighbors and the sustainability of our community was unwavering throughout his tenure at SEVCA.

You are invited to join us at the CS4CA Dedication Ceremony:

Thursday, October 25
3:30 PM – 5 PM
SEVCA’s Office
91 Buck Drive, Westminster, VT

Refreshments will be served. Let us know you’re coming by sending an email to Linda Brooks at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., or call (802) 722-4575.

CS4CA was developed as part of the Solar in Your Community Challenge, a national competition sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). Catamount Solar, a Vermont-based, employee-owned solar contractor, was selected to install the array. We would like to thank all our project supporters, including the Windham Regional Commission and dozens of local contributors, who have made this project possible.

 

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Join Us at "Solar Baroque" Benefit Concert on Oct. 28

CAMEO Arts Foundation Concert to Fundraise for Solar Project

We are thrilled to announce that CAMEO Arts Foundation will be holding a concert to benefit SEVCA’s Community Solar for Community Action project. Enjoy an afternoon of soothing Baroque music and support SEVCA at the same time! Featuring local musicians, who donate their time and talent to our cause, the concert will be both inspiring and entertaining. Admission is by donation.

Solar Baroque Benefit Concert
DATE & TIME: October 28 at 4 PM
VENUE: Church of Christ at Dartmouth College, 40 College St., Hanover, NH
PERFORMERS: Leslie Stroud, traverso (Baroque flute); Beth Hilgartner, recorders; Laurie Rabut, viola da gamba; and Ernie Drown, harpsichord.

The CAMEO Arts Foundation organizes and underwrites benefit concerts in the Vermont/ New Hampshire region, so that communities have access to high quality, affordable live music, and organizations that work to meet basic human needs receive much-needed support. CAMEO Baroque specializes in music of the Baroque era performed on modern copies of original instruments.

 CAMEO

Weatherization Director Harald Schmidtke's Legacy Honored

On May 31 at its Annual Celebration, SEVCA honored former Weatherization Director, Harald Schmidtke, a much-loved community leader, colleague, and friend, who passed away on April 2.

As SEVCA's Weatherization Director, Harald dedicated the past 25 years of his life to reducing energy costs and improving the lives of vulnerable Windham and Windsor County residents. SEVCA staff, Board, supporters, and friends gathered at the American Legion Post 67 in Chester, VT to celebrate and reflect on the enormous and lasting contribution Harald has made to the community through his leadership of the Weatherization Program. 

SEVCA staff, other members of the statewide Weatherization network, and other colleagues spoke about their relationship with Harald and his impact on their lives. Attending the event were Harald’s children, Carol, Max, and Nicole, who expressed their heartfelt thanks for honoring their father and being part of Harald’s extended family during his lifetime.

SEVCA’s Executive Director Steve Geller, who worked closely with Harald for the past 14 years, said, “What stands out the most about Harald’s legacy is the fact that he was fiercely committed to not just his program and his staff, but to all of SEVCA and our mission, and to the success of the entire Community Action movement and the War on Poverty. This was a deeply heartfelt cause for him, not just a job.”

Gloria Dawson, former SEVCA Executive Director who hired Harald in 1993, shared how much she respected and relied on Harald, saying he was “…strong-willed, but loyal, and he had a heart of gold. He had a lot of compassion, he never wanted to see people struggling. His staff loved Harald, they respected him. He was tough on them, but they knew he would go to bat for them,she said.

Geoff Wilcox, Weatherization Program Administrator at the Vermont Office of Economic Opportunity (OEO), served as keynote speaker and shared his experiences of working closely with Harald over the past two decades. “He created a team atmosphere that was conducive to succeeding. Harald showed the same respect for a new crew hire as he did for his Operations Manager. To him, people were people no matter their title or circumstance in life, and you treated them respectfully and kindly.”

Geoff also reflected on how Harald’s life epitomized what makes the Weatherization program special. “Beyond how we save low income families money on their heating and electric bills, beyond how we make their homes warmer, and beyond how we many times change their lives and instill hope into them, a huge benefit of the Weatherization program is how it has improved the lives of the folks (like Harald and thousands of others like him) who get to work in it. Harald and I have this in common along with so many others. We found our calling, we realized how rewarding it is to help others, and to work with others who have that same drive and desire to help people in need….We found our purpose in life. We became Weatherization ‘lifers’.”

Former Weatherization client Janice Hastings also shared her appreciation for Harald and how much he cared about everyone he helped. Janice said that when she thanked Harald and the Weatherization Department for all the work they’d done to make her home warm and safe, “Harald turned around and said, ‘Thank you for giving us the opportunity to help improve your life.’”

Weatherization staff received a “Beyond the Call of Duty” award from Executive Director Steve Geller, who praised the department for coming together during the difficult circumstances of Harald’s illness and loss and developing and executing a plan to get the program back on track. He said that the commitment and team spirit that they displayed was an inspiration for all of us.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

Margaret Mead