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Fund-raisers, donations boost Fuel Assistance Fund

Date: 3/9/2011

March 9, 2011

By Debbie Gardner

Assistant Editor

AGAWAM — The town's Fuel Assistance Fund got a late-winter boost last Friday night when Headquarters Bar & Grill & Banquet House, 485 Springfield St., hosted a fund-raiser featuring the local band, Spiked Punch.

According to Agawam Director of Parks and Recreation Christopher Sparks, the event raised $150 for the fund that night through a $5 cover charge, with the band kicking in another $40 to make it an even $200 donation. Sparks, who hires bands for the town's summer concert series, said he approached Spiked Punch band member, Randy Austin, about the March 4 gig and the band agreed.

This is the second year Headquarters has hosted a fund-raiser for the Fuel Assistance Fund.

"We have a really good following at Headquarters and it makes is a good fit," part-time bartender Jennifer Bonfiglio, who also works for the town's Zoning Board and Community Preservation Commission, said. "Last year was a big hit, so this year was a no-brainer [to host it again]."

She said Spiked Punch's appearance last Friday night "was fantastic and it was a really good evening."

Bonfiglio added that Headquarters owner Joe Herring supports many charities, including the Fuel Assistance Fund.

A spokesperson for the Building Inspection Department, which processes applications for fuel assistance, explained that the town's Fuel Assistance Fund is financed entirely through donations such as the Headquarters fund-raiser, and assists needy residents through a one-time-only utilities payment, usually for approximately 75 gallons of heating oil.

The spokesperson added that, in the past, the office had to turn applicants away due to a lack of money to fulfill requests. Recently however, that has not been the case.

To receive assistance, residents must fill out an application, available in the Building Inspector's office at 1000 Suffield St. or at the Senior Center, and provide proof of income.

According to Mayor Richard Cohen, 12 residents were approved by the town's Building Inspection Department for fuel assistance aid between Jan. 26, 2010 and Feb. 11, 2011, and in that time period, a total of $2, 479.58 was given out.

The awards were "for fuel or gas or Northeast Utilities [bills] and they ranged from $100 to $249.49," Cohen noted.

The Fuel Assistance Fund has assets of $4,500 in its account to date, according to Cohen, a substantial increase over the $189 that was in the account when he took office a little over a year ago.

He credited Agawam resident Corinne Wingard with helping him rebuild the fund.

"When I came into office the balance was very low and Corinne said, 'What can we do?'" Cohen said. Together they came up with the idea of including donation envelopes with residents' water bills. That move, plus last year's fund-raiser at Headquarters, helped shore up the fund.

Cohen said anyone interested in helping support the fund could send a check to the Mayor's Office.

"We get checks from $50 to $500, " he said.

For more information about the Agawam Fuel Assistance Fund, contact the Building Inspection Office at 821-0632.

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