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iBerkshires.com Columnist Section

Sue Bush
More articles from Sue Bush

Harpin Hosts Early "Turkey Day"

By Susan Bush
12:00AM / Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Marie Harpin shared a Berkshire Community Action Northern Berkshire office at 85 Main St. with about 50 frozen turkeys during part of Nov. 15.
North Adams - The Berkshire Community Action Northern Berkshire-based office was stuffed with frozen turkeys today, with the plump Butterball-brand birds set for pick-up and destined for Thanksgiving Day tables.

Here A Turkey, There A Turkey...

Office administrator Marie Harpin accepted delivery of the frozen turkeys during the morning and scheduled turkey pick-up to begin at 2 p.m.. The agency provided 50 turkeys to eligible families and, with the help of the Berkshire Share food program, is providing the fixings for 85 complete family Thanksgiving dinners, Harpin said.

"The turkeys have to be picked up today because I don't have any place to store 50 turkeys," she said. "People will pick up the rest of their items on Saturday at the Berkshire Share pickup point."

Harpin was barely able to converse during the interview; the office telephone rang almost non-stop and several people came into the office for purposes other than turkey pickup within a 15-minute time span. Two office workers were continually occupied with the telephone or in-person inquiries as well.

"Elves" Doing Their Part

The requests for emergency fuel assistance are piled up in a box perched atop Harpin's desk and the pile is rapidly thickening, she said.

"Look at this, this is all people who need emergency help and more [applications] are coming in," she said.

While the turkey pickup progressed, Harpin also accepted packages and bundles from people who sponsored a family for the holiday "Elf" program. Sponsors are assigned specific children and agree to provide holiday gifts. Wrapped and tagged packages must be delivered to the 85 Main Street office by December 1 and deliveries are rolling in, Harpin said.

"The people who live in this area are very giving and I am always thankful for the generosity toward the children," she said.

LIHEAP

Harpin reminded the public that applications for the Fiscal Year 2007 federally-funded Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program are being accepted and will continue to be accepted until May 2007.

Those with yearly gross household incomes of up to 200 percent over the federal poverty level may be eligible for some assistance with heating costs. For example, a family of three with an annual gross household income of up to $33,200 may be able to receive a benefit, according to a LIHEAP benefit guideline chart. A family of eight may be eligible with an annual gross household income of up to $67,200.

Homeowners and renters may be eligible for benefits, and those who live in subsidized housing units may also be able to receive a fuel assistance benefit.

Required Documentation

Those who received fuel assistance during last winter should receive a fuel assistance application in the mail. Those who may be seeking assistance for the first time must schedule an appointment at the appropriate BCAC office. Be prepared to present four current, consecutive paycheck pay stubs, or, if receiving Social Security benefits, a copy of the most recent check, a bank statement reflecting the check amount, or a benefit printout available free from the Social Security Administration. Income from pensions or veteran’s benefits must be confirmed within 30 days of submitting a fuel assistance application.

Workmen’s compensation payments may be verified by showing the date of the loss and the frequency of the payment, such as weekly or monthly, four compensation payment stubs, or a letter from the agency making the payments that verifies the amount being paid.

Child support payments may be documented through four up-to-date payment stubs, a copy of a court order that determined the support amount and lists to whom the support is paid and how often, or documentation from the state Department of Revenue.

Unemployment income must be verified by presenting two current payment stubs that reflect four consecutive weeks of payments, a copy of a benefit determination letter from the state Division of Employment and Training and Unemployment Insurance Services or a printout from the agency that documents the benefits being received.
Interest or dividend income must be documented with a bank statement showing any interest accrued during the most recent 30-day period.

Those who are self-employed must produce a certified copy of the most recent year’s 1040 income tax return. A complete tax package is required.

Those who earn income from rental properties must produce completed tax forms including the “E” form for rental income. If “E” forms are not used, copies of rent received receipts, tax bills, fire insurance bills, water and sewer bills, and mortgage interest documentation must be provided.

Proof of residence must be provided. Proof may be offered by providing a most recent utility bill, such as electric, telephone, gas, or television cable services bill, a copy of lease agreement, or a landlord’s statement. If heat is included in the rent, a copy of a lease must be provided.

Acceptable forms of identification include a valid driver’s license with a photograph, a photo identification card, a MassHealth or food stamp identification card, or other appropriate identification document.

Social Security cards for every member of a household must be provided.

Those interested in seeking fuel assistance may contact the BCAC office in Pittsfield at 413-445-4503, in North Adams at 413-663-3014 or in Great Barrington at 413-528-1947.


Susan Bush may be reached via e-mail at suebush@iberkshires.com or at 802-823-9367.
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