St. John Valley

Telethon tallies more than $43,000 for heat

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine – Thanks to the generosity of the Aroostook County community, United Way of Aroostook, along with Aroostook County Action Program (ACAP) and WAGM-TV, collected hundreds of donations totaling more than $43,000 during their Heating Homes with Helping Hands Telethon on November 2.

“The caring and giving spirit of County people will ensure our most vulnerable friends and neighbors have a resource to turn to helping them stay warm this winter,” said ACAP executive director/CEO Jason Parent. “The generosity of Aroostook never ceases to amaze me.  All of us involved in the telethon are so very grateful to all who made this first-ever Heating Homes with Helping Hands Telethon such a tremendous success!”

Donations came in all forms, ranging from $5 to $1,500, to a donation of a cord of wood from a Madawaska logging and firewood company to a household in need in that community. United Way of Aroostook Executive Director Sherry Locke said the donations truly came in from every community in The County.  

“What a day, what an event, and what a community,” said Locke the morning after the telethon. “My office is working like crazy to finalize totals, but pledges are still coming in. An early projection shows that we had over 400 donors help raise over $43,000. Calls, texts, and online donations are still coming in, so that number could rise. Donations are still being accepted online by visiting the WAGM website.”

Response surrounding the event was immediate.

“I already had a voicemail this morning from someone watching the news who said her 80-year-old mother was denied LIHEAP for being over the income guidelines by $7 and she was wondering if she could receive help this way,” said ACAP Case Manager Heidi Rackliffe the morning after the telethon aired.

The phone calls coming in to the ACAP offices inquiring about heating fuel assistance begin early each year, as soon as the temperatures start to drop to uncomfortable levels, which in The County is often in early fall. ACAP administers the federally funded LIHEAP program, providing heating assistance for thousands of Aroostook County residents each season. In some instances, however, such as when waiting for LIHEAP appointments to occur, or when a person fails to meet all of the necessary qualifications to receive LIHEAP funding, emergency fuel assistance may be needed.

The Heating Homes with Helping Hands Telethon originated when WAGM approached ACAP and the United Way of Aroostook about hosting a telethon to support the fund that bridges the gap when needs arise that could force people to make decisions between buying food or medication and staying warm on some of The County’s coldest days. The money raised during the telethon will help heat up to 200 homes this winter.

“Wow, what a day!  It’s amazing how generous our neighbors are,” said WAGM-TV Station Manager Kelly Landeen.  “It is very heartwarming that we can come together to help so many in need, thank you to all of the volunteers and donors that made the Heating Homes with Helping Hands Telethon possible.”

Work on the telethon began weeks before it aired. On the day of the event, volunteers arrived early to man phones and tally donations. Some people made pre-telethon donations in response to the awareness efforts leading up to the event, and it took no time at all for the phones to start ringing. WAGM-TV dedicated significant portions of its daily news broadcasts to telethon coverage and throughout the day did broadcast “cut-ins” while a ticker ran across the bottom of the screen promoting the event and encouraging people to call.

Even before the event, sponsors from Aroostook County’s business community stepped forward to show their support, from donations to food for the volunteers on the day of the event.  

In most cases, Rackliffe said, the funds raised from private sources enable the agency to help avert the crisis the same day the customer comes to ACAP needing assistance, rather than putting them through a lengthy application and wait process. Additionally, ACAP will make every effort to follow up with those needing emergency heating assistance, once the crisis has passed and fuel has been delivered, to help the family or individual prevent future crises and match them with other, non-emergency assistance programs.

A donation link is available on the WAGM-TV website at

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