In Time of Need, Tonya Dirkse Found Warmth, Peace

Duke Energy heating assistance programs help people in 7 states
Jan 10, 2018 4:00 PM ET

Originally posted on Duke Energ | Illumination

Tonya Dirkse was, in her own words, at her breaking point.  

Recently divorced with no job, she was having trouble making ends meet and was hesitant to ask for help. Then her sister mentioned that she might qualify for social services assistance, saying that it would be “a hand-up not a hand-out.” 

She reluctantly made a call and was directed to Interfaith Assistance Ministry (IAM) in her hometown of Hendersonville, N.C. “I did not want to ask for help but wanted to get back my life,” she said.

IAM helped her get back into school and work. But even more importantly, the assistance she received allowed her to deal with the basics, such as heat and electricity. That wouldn’t have happened without Duke Energy’s Share the Warmth Program, which is administered through IAM.

“This help allowed me to have time to organize my priorities and figure out how to get my life back on track,” she said.

The Share the Warmth program provides financial assistance for heating bills during the winter for Duke Energy customers in the Carolinas. Funding comes from Duke Energy customers, employees and the Duke Energy Foundation. The foundation will match up to $500,000 in customer contributions during the heating season. It is one of seven programs across Piedmont Natural Gas and Duke Energy territories.

IAM director Elizabeth Willson Moss said IAM has helped 460 families pay power bills totaling $61,520.30 through Share the Warmth since 2014.

“Duke Energy’s assistance to IAM is critical to our neighbors in need in Henderson County who are working several jobs and still not making it and to those who are struggling to survive,” she said.

“Unfortunately, we know that some of our neighbors will struggle this winter,” said Cindy Givens, Duke Energy senior product and services specialist. “In Tonya’s case, it’s good to know that Share Warmth is able to help. That program has been vital for over 30 years helping families and individuals through an unexpected event or crisis, such as a job loss or illness.”

 For Dirkse, that money made all the difference.

“Everyone at IAM was so kind and sympathetic to what I was experiencing,” she said. “I just want to express gratitude to all who have donated time, money and items to this wonderful organization.”

Givens stresses the importance of those donations, especially during the extreme cold snap.

“Any donation, even $1, will help someone you may know stay warm this winter,” Givens said. “Every little bit helps.” 

Duke Energy Customer Assistance Programs

Indiana Helping Hand
Helping Hand provides up to $300 in electric bill assistance to eligible Duke Energy customers. More information.

Duke Energy Carolinas' and Duke Energy Progress' Energy Neighbor Fund
The Duke Energy Foundation will match up to $500,000 in customer contributions during the heating season. 

Ohio Heatshare
Eligible customers may apply for a one-time annual assistance up to $300 mid-January through April 30, or until funds are depleted. More information

Kentucky WinterCare
Eligible customers may receive a one-time payment up to $300 during as long as funds are available. More information.

Florida Energy Neighbor Fund
The Duke Energy Foundation will match up to $500,000 in customer contributions during the heating season. More information

Piedmont Natural Gas Share the Warmth
Piedmont rounds up customer bills to the nearest dollar and donates the difference to an approved Share the Warmth agency in your community. In 2017 Piedmont and its customers contributed $168,000. More information