In 2016, 1,371 individuals in Georgia and Kentucky benefited from Americans Helping Americans® emergency utility assistance program.

Not only did it mean hundreds of senior citizens and families with young children down on their luck were able to stay warm in their home on the coldest days of winter without have to choose whether to pay their electric bill or put food on the table, it also meant that they would be able to continue to live in their homes.

What we have learned working with our partners over the years is that our emergency utility assistance program actually prevents homelessness.

They have told us of the critical importance of the program by explaining that even if the rent is paid in full, landlords will evict tenants who have their utilities cut off fearing that pipes on their properties could freeze and burst in unheated apartments, as well as the belief that if they could not pay their electric bill that month, they may not be able to pay their rent the next.

We have even also been informed that parents could lose temporary custody of their children as state human services agencies will not allow children to remain in a home without utilities, and will take them and put them in foster care until the situation is remedied.

For most Americans, the thought of losing their home, or worse, their children, because of an unpaid electric bill – frequently less than $100 – is unimaginable.

But it happens.

However, thanks to people like you, hundreds last year and thousands more over the past decade not only have been able to keep warm in winter, but had those fears eliminated as well.

Such is the case with Ellen.

For example last winter we heard Ellen’s tale of woe when Joe, her four-legged companion and best friend, got sick and she chose to take her dog to the vet and then couldn’t pay her power bill.

But thanks to emergency utility grant assistance provided by Americans Helping Americans® to our partner in Gainesville, Georgia, Caring Hands Ministries, she and her dog were saved from certain eviction.

Ellen knows what would’ve happened if she could not come up with the $37 to pay her bill in full.

“They’d put me out and stick me in a home someplace with my diabetes and my breathing,” she told us. “I know what would happen to Joe too – a sick old dog, they’d kill him. He would never be adopted.

“But me and Joe we need each other,” Ellen added. “He wakes me up mornings and he is the reason I do get up.

“You saved two lives when you helped me with that power bill,” she said. “Somebody does care ‘bout an old woman and her dog.”

And Ellen, and her best friend, Joe, are just one example of how people like you who support Americans Helping Americans® makes a difference in the lives of many less fortunate every single day.