HUNTSVILLE, Ala.- In recognition of the assistance provided to 24,596 families since December of 1988, Mayor Tommy Battle has proclaimed December 1 as Project Share Sunday in Huntsville.

Project Share is designed to help customers 62 years of age or older—as well as those who are certified as disabled—pay their utility bills during the winter months. Participants must be on a low or fixed income as specified by the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs and/or the Alabama Department of Human Resources.

In its 31-year history, Project Share has assisted these families for a total of $4,576,853, but this will only continue if the community supports the utility assistance program.

During the first quarter of 2019, 790 local families received an average of $152 each to help with the gas and electric portions of their utility bills.  This money comes from tax-deductible contributions made by Huntsville Utilities customers and administered by The Salvation Army, with 100% of each donation going towards assistance.

Joe Gehrdes with Huntsville Utilities said giving a little can make a big difference.

"So think if your mother is living on a fixed income, a limited income, and needs a little help in the wintertime paying for heat in her home," said Huntsville Utilities Community Relations Manager Joe Gehrdes.

Project Share recently expanded to include the Home Energy Improvements Program.  This allows a portion of donations to go towards home improvements to improve energy efficiency and reduce utility costs.  The new Home Energy Improvements Program is open to anyone who qualifies under the HUD criteria for low-income residents of Madison County. A home energy survey determines which energy-saving measures would yield the most energy-saving results.

"Going to their homes and helping them with their weatherization, with their windows, perhaps their doors, maybe even a roof. So they aren't using so much electricity to heat their home," said Gehrdes.

Funds for Project Share are raised when local community members make contributions by adding $1.00 or more each month when they pay their utility bills.

"The proceeds for Project Share stay right here in our community. This is neighbors helping neighbors to get through tough times," said Gehrdes.

Participation in Project Share could be better. Gehrdes said less than 5% of Huntsville Utilities customers participate.

"If every customer gave a dollar every month on their bill, well that would be well over a million dollars a year that we could do a lot more of this work and help a lot more customers get through difficult times," said Gehrdes.