BPU & United Way partner to keep the lights on

By Randy Skach, Program Assistant

We’ve all experienced times in our life where we’ve fallen behind on our bills. Sometimes life makes these times near impossible to get around on our own. That’s why three years ago the Board of Public Utilities (BPU) and United Way of Wyandotte County joined forces to create the BPU Hardship Utility Assistance Program.

The program is administered by the United Way of Wyandotte County and coordinated with BPU staff. This year we were able to help 237 households with delinquent utility bills in a span of a few months with $95,000 allocated by BPU. The amount of people we provided assistance to was sometimes overwhelming, but I personally took great pride in knowing we were helping people in situations that could be too much for anyone to handle.

It was most rewarding when we had an opportunity to not only provide financial assistance with their BPU bill, but also offer referrals and advice to send them to the places in Wyandotte County that could help them best. One man was already dealing with the discomfort and financial burden of chemo treatments when he called asking for utility assistance. Because of his limited options he had no other choice but to take a bus to our office and apply for hardship assistance in person. While he filled out his paperwork I let him know that our partner agency Cancer Action provided transportation assistance to chemo treatments for those dealing with cancer. He was extremely thankful to find a way to make these treatments to fight his illness a little less unpleasant.

Another situation had a woman with two small children in our office applying for utility assistance to set up new service because she desperately needed to move from her home due to an abusive spouse. She had no idea where to go or who to talk to in this situation. Luckily we were able to direct her to KU Med’s Project Eagle located right next door in the Children’s Campus. Their program, ‘Connections’ provides problem solving support for families dealing with abuse and other issues.

Overall the situations that involved children tend to stand out the most. We would always do our best to get their utilities on again so they can get back to what they do best, being a kid. I’ll never forget asking one little girl what the first thing she wanted to do once her lights were back on. Without hesitation she smiled and said “have my friends over for a sleepover!”

Thank you BPU for helping make this family and others a little more comfortable this winter!

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