Making the choice between paying for housing or utilities is one families across the country face every day.
In central Indiana, there’s a safety net, thanks in part to support from the Duke Energy Foundation.
Lynn Thomas, a single mom with three sons at home, found herself staring at that choice in October. She turned to Family Promise of Hendricks County, a nonprofit dedicated to helping people meet their basic needs – including housing, utilities and health care.
When Family Promise steps in, the lights stay on, the rent is paid and food appears on the table.
Thomas said she does everything she can to make ends meet, but sometimes everything isn’t enough.
In her case, a car accident hurt her ability to work full time. And when she fell behind on her electric bills, the organization helped. “If it wasn’t for Family Promise, I definitely would not know where to go whatsoever.”
Thomas’ situation is one the people at Family Promise know well.
Executive Director Julie Randall said the need for help is greater than ever. She said they get around 300 crisis calls a month, up from the pre-pandemic average of 200.
“We’ve never had more people in need of assistance. We’ve never had a higher number of homeless families than we do right now.”
Some of that increase stems from the end of pandemic-era support programs, and some is due to higher prices and costs from inflation.
Randall said the relationship with Duke Energy makes her job a little bit easier. “We’re able to call Duke and say, ‘We’re going to help this family; please do not disconnect.’ And they won’t.”
Duke Energy’s roots in the community run deep. For over 20 years, the company has partnered with the United Way of Central Indiana.
The company recently announced $100,000 in grants for basic needs to agencies in 15 counties.
Mary Jones leads the organization’s Basic Needs initiatives, which help fund Family Promise.
Duke Energy and its employees, she said, are vested in the community, even taking fundraising to new heights. Employees joined United Way’s Over the Edge campaign, raising thousands of dollars while rappelling down a 23-story building.
Jones jokes it’s hard to watch but the campaign has raised a lot of money for United Way of Central Indiana’s Basic Needs Fund – allowing the organization to distribute more than $8 million to 63 organizations this fiscal year, including Family Promise. Duke Energy earned recognition as a Top Community Investor.
And who recruits those Duke Energy employees who rappel down the building? Kelley Karn, vice president for regulatory affairs and policy.
Employees engage in the community, she said, because Duke Energy is a “public service company.”
The company’s Share the Light Fund also helps customers with energy bill assistance and has aided about 1,700 Indiana households with more than $378,000 this year.
“Energy is a service that is important to our customers day in and day out. We know we have that responsibility to support our residential customers,” Karn said, “to be there to support the economies of our businesses and industries in our states.”
Karn is also a United Way of Central Indiana board member.
Donors are drawn to the organization’s focus on results-oriented giving, she said: “You know when you give to United Way at the end of the day that their clients are being helped.”
That help is invaluable for Family Promise client Lynn Thomas. Having electricity means the lights are on, the heat is running, and her 13-year-old son can do his homework online. Family Promise is also offering to help her with meals for the holidays.
She said the organization lives up to its name. “They make you feel like you’re family.”