2012-02-27 / Front Page

Bowdoinham sings into action for heat aid fund

Event slated for Sunday
BY DARCIE MOORE Times Record Staff


LEILA PERCY LEILA PERCY BOWDOINHAM — The combination of home heating oil prices that top $3.70 per gallon and federal fuel aid reductions is enough to make you scream.

Instead, two new Bowdoinham selectwomen plan to make it a cause for singing — and eating pie.

Jazz performer Leila Percy will headline a benefit performance for Bowdoinham’s heating assistance fund from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday at the Town Hall on School Street.

Tickets cost $10 and will be available at the door, but space is limited to 240 people.

Hal Ahlers of Bowdoinham will play the drums, joined by accomplished jazz performers Frank Vigneau on the piano and Al Donne on bass.

Ahlers, who plays with many musicians including the local Blues Buzzards, described Percy as a dynamic performer who connects with the audience, and said, “I’m thrilled to play with her.” He said the music they play will be popular selections of songs that people will know.

The performance will be informal, he said. Finger desserts, appetizers and drinks will be available.

The Ladies Auxiliary will sell or auction 20 different cakes and pies to benefit the heating assistance fund.

Selectwoman Kathy Tome, who won a seat on the Board of Selectmen in November, said that as she ran for the position, her focus was on community. As she thought of what she wanted to accomplish and how to give back to Bowdoinham, she realized that the town’s heating assistance fund was nearly empty.

Cuts to the federal Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) exacerbated the problem.

“We had people in town who unfortunately — any one of us could be in that situation — really needed some help to stay warm,” Tome said.

Fellow Selectwoman Kathy Gallant, also elected in November, joined forces with Tome in finding a way to replenish the municipal heating assistance fund. The two decided to organize a fundraiser. The full five-person Bowdoinham Board of Selectmen supported the effort.

Percy waived her performance fee for Sunday’s event.

“One hundred percent of everything we make, is going toward that fund,” Tome said.

Tome and Gallant also mailed out a letter inviting Bowdoinham residents to contribute to the heating assistance fund. It garnered $2,000, with contributions ranging from a $10 walk-in donation to a $500 check, according to Gallant.

Gallant noted that $2,000 may only help seven families due to the high cost of heating homes in winter.

Another purpose of the letter was to educate residents about aid programs, including LIHEAP, the Keep Me Warm Fund and the General Assistance program.

Gallant characterized the Bowdoinham Heating Assistance Program as a fallback program if residents can’t get what they need through other programs. Applications are screened before funds are issued. The program supports the cost of any heating source.

“Sometimes, they need to know that it’s OK” to ask for the help, Tome said. “It’s really about community. It’s really about giving back to the community and helping those who really need it.”

“And in these difficult times, some people have money to give,” Gallant said. “I have my time, so I’m just trying, through this and future events, to give my time and hopefully make a difference.”

“We want to be able to continue to raise funds,” Tome said.

People can donate to the heating fund, and additional events will be organized to help keep money coming into the fund so it will be replenished before next winter arrives, to ensure residents will stay warm.

Gallant said selectmen recently modified the standards of the heating assistance program, which is funded solely through private donations and fundraisers, so that it focuses on those who truly need the help.

A recent 2012-13 budget presentation by Brad Smith, the superintendent of School Administrative District 75 which educates Bowdoinham students, states that 47.2 percent of students at Bowdoinham Community School are eligible for free or reduced school meal programs this year. That is up from 33.9 percent in 2007.

“In Bowdoinham, there are a number of young families,” as well as older people, who are independent still, Ahlers said, “and they need a break.”

Tickets to Sunday’s fundraiser can be purchased at the town office on School Street, the Town Landing Restaurant, G&G Gas Station and the Long Branch grocery store. For more information, contact Kathy Gallant at kgallant@bowdoinham.com or 841-7569; or Kathy Tome at ktome@bowdoinham.com or 751-0080.

The cost of tickets to Sunday’s performance are not tax-deductible. Direct donations to the fund are. Checks payable to the Town of Bowdoinham, with “BHAP” in the memo line, can be delivered or mailed to the town office at 13 School St. The ZIP code is 04008.

dmoore@timesrecord.com

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