Each year The Mountaineer selects a worthy cause in the community to receive proceeds from its Holiday Challenge.

This year, all donations will be given to Mountain Projects, where they will be used to meet the immediate needs of those still reeling from flood damages and who are having trouble staying warm during the winter months.

As always, donations are tax deductible and donors will be listed in the paper as the community strives to meet its goal to help others through particularly hard times.

Celesa Willett, executive director of United Way of Haywood County, said flood relief funds raised so far have been mostly used to fund the rapid rehousing project taking place in partnership with Baptists on Mission.

To get a home safe, sanitary and secure for the winter after it has been flooded costs about $17,500 when working with the Baptists on Mission.

That still leaves gaps when it comes to providing funds for heat, furniture, appliances and other needs to re-establish a home where everything was washed downstream.

Mountain Projects works hand-in-hand with United Way to provide case management for the flood survivors and others facing hardships. That’s where this year’s Holiday Challenge funds will be essential in helping get through this winter.

“While many members of our community are looking forward to holiday cheer and winter weather, others are bracing for cooler temperatures,” said Patsy Davis, executive director of Mountain Projects. “Managing the cost of heating bills is a challenge for people on Social Security, for young families and for low-wage workers. And with rising costs of energy and shifts in the job market, many in our community will need assistance staying warm this winter.”

The ongoing economic impact of the COVID pandemic, devastating floods in southeastern Haywood County and rising costs of fuel and food all present challenges the community hasn’t faced in the past.

These factors, combined with an expensive and inadequate rental market, spell “a long, hard, winter,” said Davis.

Mountain Projects began its heating assistance program years ago, and each year the number of requests for assistance has grown. Last winter, 200 households were assisted, Davis said, and were often families living from paycheck to paycheck or are on a very-limited income with unexpected medical bills.

“Seniors that request assistance are often making choices between medication or food, and then there are families with young children that choose between holiday gifts or rent,” she added. “Many last winter were trying to do without heat at all, to keep basic utilities from being shut off. We just can’t let people suffer that way.”

The Holiday Challenge is aimed at helping people feel safe and secure, said Davis.

“With the community’s assistance, we will keep folks from falling through the cracks or into tragic situations. We want people to stay warm so they can succeed in other aspects of their lives, she said.

Join the Mountaineer and Mountain Projects in raising funds to provide emergency heating and utility assistance to keep our community members warm, safe and secure this winter.

Send contributions to The Mountaineer, 220 N. Main, Waynesville, NC 28786, or contribute online to Mountain Projects. Be sure to include a notation the donation is for The Mountaineer Holiday Challenge. Those who donate will have their names and contributions listed in the newspaper.

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