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Energy news from Omaha Public Power District


Strong Heat the Streets turnout raises much-needed utility assistance funds

March 7, 2023 | Jodi Baker | community, OPPD employees
COM_Heat the Streets 2023 start

The 2023 Heat the Streets Run & Walk for Warmth was one for the record books, raising its second-highest total of $138,000 to help customers who are struggling to pay their utility bills.

Omaha Public Power District and Metropolitan Utilities District host this event annually during the winter to bring added attention to the challenge a number of utility customers face to keep their homes warm and safe.

“Many are living paycheck to paycheck, and if they’re hit with an unexpected expense like a hospital stay or a car repair, they fall behind on their bills,” said Sara Howard, who serves on the OPPD Board of Directors. “Sometimes just a little financial boost can make a world of difference.”

She co-chaired the March 4 event along with her mother, Gwen Howard, chair of M.U.D.’s Board of Directors. A record 911 runners and walkers participated in the event, held at Aksarben Village.

Heat the Streets
Whether they were walking, left, or running, more than 900 people participated in this year’s Heat the Streets event. Photos by Danielle Beebe-Iske

“We’re really pleased with the turnout, especially in this economy,” said Megan Walter, M.U.D.’s manager of Customer Engagement. “We will be able to help a lot of customers with the funds raised.”

Last year’s Heat the Streets raised more than $150,000, with the donations from that event alone providing much-needed assistance for 460 households served by M.U.D. and OPPD.

A growing need for help

The economy has continued to present challenges. And the rising cost for everything from groceries to gasoline is taking its toll, said Major Adam Moore, general secretary and area commander for the Salvation Army. His agency has seen a 33% increase in the number of people seeking help with their utility bills.

“There are so many in our community who wonder where their next meal is coming from,” he said. “Funds raised through Heat the Streets give us an opportunity to help make that choice a little easier. The event makes a huge difference in people’s lives.”

Heat the Streets
OPPD’s Garry Floyd cheers on participants during the Heat the Streets event. Photos by Danielle Beebe-Iske and Lindsey Liekhus

Marni Halford, an OPPD accounting clerk, was among the many utility employees who participated.

“I love to support our customers,” she said. “I see a lot of people in need in my position and I love the idea that I can help raise some money for them.”

That passion was evident among the many volunteers, as well, including Garry Floyd, supervisor of Support Services for OPPD. He guided and cheered on those crossing the finish line with shout-outs like, “You did that!” and “Personal best!”

‘More important than ever’

Funds raised through Heat the Streets are administered by Dollar Energy Fund, a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit that serves low-income utility customers. Funds are equally distributed between M.U.D.’s Home Fund and OPPD’s Energy Assistance Program.

Heat the Streets
Medals, divided into age groups, await the top finishers. Photo by Lindsey Liekhus

Dollar Energy Fund works with 35 local entities throughout the utilities’ service territories to provide this financial assistance for utility bills for those in need.

In total, M.U.D.’s Home Fund dispersed $186,260 in assistance to 544 households and OPPD’s Energy Assistance Fund dispersed a total of $303,360 to 929 households in 2022.

“Since much of the pandemic relief is ending, our funding resources for utility assistance are decreasing. So, the money we raise through Heat the Streets is more important than ever to help us meet our customers’ critical needs,” said Britton Gabel, manager of Advocacy Solutions for OPPD.

It’s not too late to support the cause. Visit Dollar Energy’s Heat the Streets donation page to contribute. Customers may also donate to utility assistance programs through an option on their monthly utility bills.

Both utilities urge any customers who are struggling with their bills to call their customer service representatives and talk through their options. For OPPD, that number is 402-536-4131 in the Omaha area. Outside of the metro, customers may call toll-free at 877-536-4131. M.U.D. customers should call 402-554-6666 or toll-free at 800-732-5864.

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Photo at top and above by Danielle Beebe-Iske
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About Jodi Baker

Jodi Baker writes stories and shoots videos for The Wire. Jodi was a television news reporter before she came to work for OPPD as a media specialist in 2013. Jodi earned her degree in broadcasting from the University of Nebraska-Omaha. She's worked for news stations from her hometown of Omaha to sunny San Diego. She’s married with two bright and energetic children (a boy and a girl) and an allergy-ridden little Cairn Terrier. She and her husband enjoy catching up on some grown-up DVR time once the kiddos are asleep.

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