Since 2008, the Dollar Energy Fund of West Virginia has allowed people to help the needy pay utility bills simply by paying a little more on their own utility bills. Participating utilities then match those contributions.
This is a privately run program, not a government entitlement. It's a good way to help people of modest means who are trying to make it on their own.
About 67 percent of those who apply for assistance are women, and 59 percent of the households that apply have children.
""A lot of those are single moms," said Rachel Coffman, Appalachian region program manager for Dollar Energy Fund.
The West Virginia Power baseball team is helping to promote the assistance program this summer. Fans can contribute at Appalachian Power Park's box office or at the Fan Assistance Center.
The program is aimed at people who are living just above the official federal line of poverty. The annual income limits are $17,235 for a single person, $23,265 for two people, $29,205 for three, $35,325 for four, and $41,355 for a family of five.
"It's very important that we raise awareness that this is a program that is needed in the summer and not just the colder months," Coffman said. "There's just as much need for this program in the summer as in the winter."
While air conditioning was once considered a luxury, last summer's derecho jolted many people to the realization that lack of it is pure misery.
Appalachian Power and West Virginia American Water are among the 16 utility companies that accept contributions through utility bills.
Money can be donated online by credit card at www.dollarenergy.org. or people can mail a check to:
West Virginia Utility Assistance Program
P.O. Box 3979
Charleston, WV 25339