SOUTH BOSTON - Diane Clark wakes up each morning, turns up the thermostat, and helps Emilio, 8, get ready for school.
She walks him to the front door of their South Boston home, and then hurries back to the window to wave as the bus drives by.
The remaining hours of the morning are spent feeding, bathing, and entertaining Andrew, 4, and Olivia, 2 – a routine she thought was complete 25 years ago with her own children.
Clark, a grandmother who has adopted her daughter’s three children, works evenings part-time at the Post Office to provide for them and for her disabled brother Eddie, 63, who has cerebral palsy.
Over the past several years, the challenges of paying heating bills have left so many families like Clark’s counting every penny and exhausting every resource they can find. The Northeast was recently hit by its sixth snowstorm of the season and soaring oil prices in the area are averaging $3.46 per gallon, 61 cents higher than last year.
In the wake of record breaking winter weather, Clark says she can’t be afraid to ask for help.
“If I didn’t have the assistance I’d be struggling to decide which bills not to pay, says Clark. “My grandchildren and brother have to stay warm. It’s okay to call everyone you know when times get rough.”
Last week, the assistance came in the form of a delivery from Citizens Energy President Joseph P. Kennedy II and CITGO Petroleum President Alejandro Granado. The delivery event kicked off the company’s 2011 heating oil season.
“A lot of Americans are looking around these days wondering, ‘Where have all the heroes gone?’” said Kennedy, a former member of the U.S. Congress. “Right here in front of us is Diane Clark. At a time when she could be working and living comfortably, she’s taken on a second family. We need to provide support to Diane and thousands of families just like her.”
The program, made possible by the generosity of the Venezuelan people and CITGO Petroleum, provides millions of gallons of heating oil to hundreds of thousands of low-income households in need of heating assistance each year. Local oil dealers will deliver 100 gallons of fuel to eligible families throughout the season.
Clark, who has always been the one to lend a helping hand, now finds herself on the receiving end.
“I have had oil delivered through this program before and the assistance is much needed,” said Diane. “Caring for my family isn’t easy at times, but programs like this let families in need know its okay to ask for help when their own effort just isn’t enough. The program is a God- send.”
The heating oil program also provides fuel to thousands of Native American households in the U.S. spread out across 73 tribes and over 250 communities.
Citizens Energy, formed by Kennedy during the oil price shocks of the late 1970s, has provided discounted heating oil to the poor and the elderly for over 30 years. In 2005, Citizens Energy expanded its operations in partnership with CITGO to 23 states and the District of Columbia. Each year, Kennedy writes every major oil company and every OPEC nation to ask for fuel donations to help the poor, but only CITGO and Venezuela have ever agreed to provide assistance.
In addition to Massachusetts, the Citizens Energy Oil Heat Program operates in Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Vermont, Maine, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Virginia, the District of Columbia, Alaska, Delaware, Indiana, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania.
Families interested in receiving heating oil assistance please call 1-877-JOE-4-OIL. Once approved, the household receives an authorization letter and calls its heating oil dealer to arrange a delivery of 100 free gallons of heating oil.