Many Mainers bundle in blankets on the couch, turning up the heat and occasionally sipping on something warm. But for some, the winter does not look so warm and cozy. For some, the winter looks like a choice between paying rent or affording heat. Perhaps some households know the value of a warm home after shoveling in sub-zero temperatures with no gloves. Unfortunately, many Mainers are at high-risk for not being able to heat their homes during the frigid winter months.

Around New England, several states have heating assistance programs, and many households in Maine take advantage of the Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP), which is available to qualifying households through local Community Action Agencies. General assistance offices as well as some town-sponsored heating assistance programs also aid those in need. Tedford Housing’s Warm Thy Neighbor program is unique in that it is a fully donor-funded program that provides emergency heating assistance between November and March to those in the program’s catchment area.

Warm Thy Neighbor was established in 2004 by Sallie Smith. Sallie dedicated years of time and effort to ensure the success of the Warm Thy Neighbor program. In October 2010, Smith transferred the Warm Thy Neighbor program to Tedford Housing when operations and need became too large. Sallie is a long-time supporter of Tedford Housing and she currently sits on Tedford’s Marketing & Development Committee.

Freezing temperatures bring frozen hands and frozen feet. Tedford Housing’s Warm Thy Neighbor program provides heating assistance to approximately 125 households during one heating season, warming the feet and hands of over 248 people. Currently, six loyal volunteers, supported by Tedford’s staff, work with Warm Thy Neighbor clients to ensure fuel is delivered to those in need. These six dedicated volunteers have been volunteering with this program for over five years, and continue to donate their time to ensure hundreds of people can warm their homes. Tedford Housing is grateful for these individuals who are committed to this program and our mission.

COVID-19 has changed how Warm Thy Neighbor is implemented this year, by halting all in-person meetings and requiring paper-work drop-offs allow staff and volunteers to minimize contact and keep clients safe. Despite the change, Warm Thy Neighbor continues to field requests for heating assistance as neighborhood households struggle to afford heat in the midst of the pandemic, all while balancing the burden of rent, bills, and putting food on the table.

At Tedford Housing, we understand the need for heating assistance, and how paramount the program is to keeping people in their homes. Warm Thy Neighbor is a vital homeless prevention and outreach program, and many of those on the brink of homelessness utilize this emergency fund as a vital resource. Tedford Housing is proud to offer this program to so many households and individuals in our community, and appreciate the broad community support for this program. A generous anonymous donor gifted Tedford $25,000 as a matching gift this heating season, and the community is stepping up to help us reach that goal. Don’t let someone have to choose this winter between paying for food or having a warm home.

To apply for Warm Thy Neighbor heating assistance, please call (207) 729-1161 ext.115, or for more information about Tedford Housing or with any questions, please email

Blaine Flanders is the community and donor relations coordinator at Tedford Housing. Giving Voice is a weekly collaboration among five local non-profit service agencies to share information and stories about their work in the community.

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