ST. LOUIS (KMOV.com) - A St. Louis non-profit that helps people pay off their utility bills is running out of money--and fast--according to its founder.
Heat Up St. Louis, founded by Gentry Trotter, has been around for two decades, helping those who have fallen behind on their utility bills or have been disconnected.
"For the 20th year, one would think it’s time to celebrate, we have nothing to celebrate," said Gentry Trotter. "Every day somebody is being disconnected, every five minutes someone is being disconnected."
The organization received millions of federal and local dollars, along with donations, over the course of the year. But Trotter said COVID-19 is creating an unprecedented need, with people who have previously never asked for help, now stepping forward.
"Those new people that have been impacted are now standing in line competing for dollars and they’ve never done this before," he said.
At its highest, Trotter said nearly 500 applications were coming into the office every day. As the non-profit works to pay off bills or pledge a certain amount, some people are now being waitlisted as the money just isn't there.
"Everything has been evaporated, it’s out the door...everything is spent," he said.
While Heat Up St. Louis plans to secure some additional funding in 2021, without donations, Trotter isn't sure how his organization will continue to help everyone who needs it.
"This is the first time I’ve ever felt uncomfortable," he said. "I’ve been doing this for 20 years and there are people falling through the safety net. That’s what Heat Up St. Louis is here to help with."
Fonda Marshall, who lives in North City, is one of the recipients of much needed help this month.
"We don’t have a car at this moment and it was kind of a struggle getting on the bus and all this COVID stuff going on," Marshall said. "I’ve really been doing it myself, getting my bills on my own, so I haven't been with Heat Up St. Louis for a couple years."
But, after falling behind, and with two kids learning at home, Marshall stepped forward and asked for help.
"We must put our pride on the side and ask for help," she said. "There’s nothing wrong with it. We all fall, we all go through something."
Because of COVID-19, many of the organization's annual fundraising events were cancelled this year. 100 percent of donations go toward helping a person in need, as Trotter said his office does not charge administrative fees.
If you're interested in donating, visit www.heatupstlouis.org.