It’s 8:30 and the front doors of Lebanon County Christian ministries open for a day of service. There is a group of about 15 guests who are ready to enter the lobby for a myriad of needs. Some come regularly, some are looking for immediate relief of hunger by finding food made available through the food rescue work of LCCM, and others are requesting assistance with their natural gas bill. Wait, their what? Yes, that is correct – their natural gas bill.
LCCM has been a long-time partner of UGI, the local provider of natural gas. Our community uses natural gas for heating, hot water, and cooking. The natural gas provider, UGI, is not just a company that gives gas and takes money to pay your utility bill. UGI is a giver! Through a program managed by the Customer Outreach Team at UGI, programs exist to aid those who are struggling to pay their natural gas utility bill. The Responsible Utility Customer Protection Act, also known as Act 201, provides protections to utility customers who pay their bill, follow through with payment arrangements, make a required deposit, and allow the utility company to access its equipment.
When a UGI customer faces a hardship, they can reach out to the team at LCCM for assistance. “We are blessed to be a partner with UGI and assist with the applications and follow-up of our community members who are utilizing the assistance programs of UGI,” states Bryan Smith LCCM’s Executive Director.
LCCM has made a commitment to the UGI program by hiring a dedicated team member to process the UGI program applications and a second staff member who assists. “UGI provides funding to LCCM for each application and follow-up we conduct,” Smith continued. “The funding helps offset the cost of our front desk staff and provides us the ability to better serve our guests every day.”
Brian Meilinger, Senior Manager of Customer Programs at UGI shared “UGI is pleased to partner with local Community Based Organizations like LCCM to provide assistance to our customers and neighbors. The UGI team is here to help – either through LCCM, by calling (800) UGI-WARM or visiting https://www.ugi.com/here-to-help.”
UGI’s commitment goes beyond the programs of UGI Operation Share and UGI Customer Assistance Program. UGI also holds annual employee giving campaigns to support the United Way in their footprint, and staff can contribute to the UGI Operation Share program.
“We wanted to highlight the partnership with UGI so our community knows we are always looking for ways to support the needs of our community,” states Smith. Beyond the UGI program, LCCM also aids with water and sewer bills and heating oil. Each program has its own eligibility criteria and anyone who is in need must call the LCCM office for more information, details, and direction for enrollment.
Smith refers to a small statement from the book When Helping Hurts, when expressing why this type of an arrangement works. The statement reads, “North American Christians need to be giving more, not less, money to help the poor. But how that money is given and to whom it is given is crucial. We need to look for ways to give money that builds up local organizations and that truly empowers the poor.” LCCM is a local organization with a vision statement that reads, “Investing in people. Improving lives.”
Lebanon County Christian Ministries