FREEPORT — Confronted with the COVID-19 health crisis, Freeport Community Services has decided to keep the Freeze Out tradition alive for its 17th year with a safe, socially-distanced spin on the event.

The event is scheduled for Feb. 27 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Teams of one to three will stand outside Freeport Community Center to collect donations and raise awareness for heating insecurity.

Renamed this year to The Warm Me Up Challenge, the event aims to raise $10,000 for the Carol Kaplan Fuel Fund, which provides heating assistance for Freeport and Pownal residents in need.

“Our Carol Kaplan Fuel Fund is more important than ever this year with families facing COVID-related challenges,” said Freeport Community Services Executive Director Paula Paladino. “For some families, quarantine means no income for nearly two weeks. For others, reduced hours or business closures mean less money to spend on essentials.”

As of Friday, the Freeze Out’s GoFundMe had raised over $4,500.

According to Freeport Community Services Events and Communications Manager Christine Lyons, the funds will likely help more than 60 households pay for heating oil, propane, kerosene, wood or pellets.

“We also anticipate potentially having to give a second allotment and that is historically not something that we generally have to do.” Lyons said. “So, you can just know from that, that folks are in a more challenging position this year.”

In the past, Lyons said the Freeze Out has taken many different forms.

“In certain years, it looked like people spending 24 hours outside,” she said. “Historically it’s been about being on Main Street and asking people for donations or being in front of grocery stores and asking people for donations. When we got our committee together, we said, we can’t do that. This year, that’s just not safe.”

While in the past there has been a food drive component to the event, Lyons said that this year the Freeport and Pownal communities “have been so generous with food donations that we realized it gave us the flexibility, and really the ability to focus purely on fuel.”

Freeport Community Services was established in 1974 and is located on Depot Road. The nonprofit acts as a community center as well as a source of emergency and essential relief services for residents of Freeport and Pownal.

This story has been corrected to reflect the correct time the event starts.

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