By Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – Tombigbee Electric Power Association wants its customers to participate in a voluntary round-up program to help needy families pay utility bills.
The program, called Good Friends, began two years ago and collects an average of $1,000 per month for distribution to families through The Salvation Army.
But less than 10 percent of TEPA’s customers currently participate. TEPA Director of Member Services David Kelso said he’d like to see at least 25-50 percent of customers sign up.
“It’s for any of our members who find themselves in an emergency situation – job layoff, death of a family member, medical emergency,” Kelso said. “Eighty percent of people are probably two or three paychecks off from a similar situation.”
The funds are available only to families who have fallen on hard times and meet The Salvation Army’s criteria, said Susan Gilbert, social services director for Tupelo’s Salvation Army.
“They can use it once every 12 months,” she said. “It’s a temporary, short-term solution for people who find themselves in a tight spot, usually through no fault of their own.”
Gilbert said TEPA’s Good Friends program provides a large portion of the money for its utility payment assistance. Other funds come from the Army itself and the Tupelo Ministerial Association.
Customers who participate will have their bill rounded up to the nearest 50 cents. Someone with a bill of $95.51 would pay $96, for example. The donated amount ranges from 1-49 cents.
Gilbert herself is a TEPA customer and a Good Friends participant. She said she paid a total of $3 last year through the program. She hardly missed the money, she said, but it made a difference to needy families.
TEPA customers wanting to participate can do so online at www.tombigbeeelectric.com or by returning a consent form that will be mailed in an upcoming bill. They also can register in person at 1906 S. Gloster St.