Ike Libby is the owner of Hometown Energy in Dixfield, Maine. He drives the truck that delivers heating oil to homes in the area that residents depend on for heat in the cold, winter months. Many people are struggling to keep their homes warm this year after cutbacks reduced the budget for the federal Low Income Heating Assistance Program (LIHEAP) from $56.5 million to $39.9 million there.
Mr. Libby is a kind-hearted man, who isn't able to turn away customers who can't afford to pay for their heating fuel. One of his customers, the Hartfords, are a disabled and retired couple who have been hit especially hard by the budget cuts to LIHEP.. They need to survive on a fixed income of $1,200 a month. The couple offered Libby the title to their only vehicle until they could pay off their heating oil bill.
"Its tough to tell somebody you can't bring them oil," Libby said. "We have been in business for eight years and we are further in the hole than when we started."
Libby often tries to help those that he can. He will make small deliveries, wave service fees or set up payment plans that often leave his checkbook empty.
"He didn't even know us," Hartford said. "He just has a heartbeat beyond most people."
Libby was interviewed for an article that appeared in the New York Times on Saturday about the struggle faced by the people in Maine to keep their homes warm during these difficult economic times. The article featured the story of the Hartfords.
Since the article appeared, Hometown Energy has been swamped at the office, with phone calls from people wishing to donate money to Mr. Libby to help ensure that people in need have enough heating oil to keep warm. The business that he has run from his heart touched the hearts of complete strangers who have so far donated $100,000. Libby is now in the process of setting up a trust fund for people in the community having trouble paying for their fuel.
The Hartfords received some donations directly, as well.
You can help, too:
To donate to a trust set up to help people who cannot afford heating oil, contact Hometown Energy at 562-8822 or mail checks to Hometown Energy at P.O. Box 485, Dixfield, ME 04224 or through www.HometownEnergyMaine.com.