(Update: Adding GoFundMe page started to help with propane purchases)
'This is how a lot of people stay warm, this is how people cook their food -- it's essential'
BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- St. Vincent De Paul of Bend is trying its best to keep its clients warm by issuing propane vouchers, but rising costs due to growing need are putting a strain on the program that could limit its ability to help those in need.
When the propane vouchers started, St. Vincent De Paul was serving 20 to 30 customers.
"This last month, we issued almost 300 propane vouchers, and the bill was over $8,000, and so it's steadily grown," Executive Director Gary Hewitt said Thursday. "It's grown because it's a great need for our community."
St. Vincent De Paul is looking for donors, nonprofits and businesses to help continue the voucher program.
Amy Ochander, who saw our story, began a GoFundMe page to raise funds for St. Vincent de Paul to help fund the propane vouchers and had raised nearly $3,000 by Saturday evening.
Hewitt said Saturday, "We have also been getting donations at our website. Every little bit helps. I am thankful for what we have been able to raise."
On Thursday, he told NewsChannel 21, "We're only able to do it as long as we can afford it, and that's the unfortunate part."
"Not only are the homeless using these propane vouchers -- anybody living in a trailer is also using them, or an RV, which uses propane to heat or cook," Hewitt said.
A Bend resident who asked not to be on camera says she's been using the propane vouchers for three years.
"It’s because everything is too high," she said. "It helps make ends meet, because you can’t get vouchers for gas, groceries. It helps that extra little bit for heat and cooking food.”
Hewitt added, "Beginning this month, it's the last month we're going to issue propane at 10 gallons a month. It's going to go to every other month. so now people are going to have to stretch their 10 gallons into two-month periods."
St. Vincent De Paul received funding as part of a larger grant with NeighborImpact, but that money is almost gone.
Anyone who has an account at St. Vincent De Paul can get a propane voucher. For those who don't have an account and would like to, they have to provide their birthdate name. Clients can get their free propane from Red Carpet Car Wash South.