Costs are up on everything from gasoline to groceries, and it’s taking a toll on households within the service territories of Omaha Public Power District and Metropolitan Utilities District. The utilities are calling on the community to come together to help make a difference by participating in the Heat the Streets Run & Walk for Warmth.
The annual event, now in its 16th year, raises money for utility assistance programs. It takes place Saturday, March 4, in Zone 6 at Aksarben Village, 1911 S. 67th St. in Omaha. Registration is open now through March 1 at HeatTheStreetsOmaha.org.
This year’s co-chairs are Gwen Howard, a member of the M.U.D. Board of Directors, and her daughter, Sara Howard, a member of the OPPD Board of Directors.
“We hold this event during the cold winter months to bring added attention to the struggle so many face to keep their homes safe and warm,” said Director Gwen Howard. “However, our customers’ need is year-round. And we’re hearing from a lot of customers who have never had to ask for help before.”
“Many are living paycheck to paycheck, and if they’re hit with an unexpected expense like a hospital stay or a car repair, they fall behind on their bills,” said Director Sara Howard. “Sometimes just a little financial boost can make a world of difference.”
Last year’s event raised more than $150,000, with 100% of those funds benefiting customers in need of assistance with their utility bills. The donations from this event alone provided much-needed assistance for 460 households served by M.U.D. and OPPD.
In total, M.U.D.’s Home Fund dispersed $186,260 in assistance to 544 households in 2022. And last year, OPPD’s Energy Assistance Fund dispersed a total of $303,360 to 929 households.
“Since much of the pandemic relief funding is ending, our funding resource for utility assistance is decreasing. So, this funding is more important than ever to help us meet our customers’ critical needs,” said Britton Gabel, OPPD’s manager of Advocacy Solutions. “Our customers should not have to choose between getting medicine or groceries and keeping their lights, heat and water connected.”
Funds raised through Heat the Streets are administered by Dollar Energy Fund, a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit that serves low-income utility customers. Funds are equally distributed between M.U.D.’s Home Fund and OPPD’s Energy Assistance Program. Dollar Energy Fund works with 35 local entities throughout the utilities’ service territories to provide this financial assistance for utility bills to our neighbors in need.
New participation options for 2023
The utilities have set a goal of 1,000 registrations for the 2023 event, which features new options for participants beyond the timed 5K run or an untimed one-mile walk offered in previous years. Now, there’s a timed five-mile option. We continue to offer a virtual option, where participants can run or walk a path of their own choosing at their convenience.
Costs follow for various registration options:
Timed 5-mile run:
- $40 (through March 1)
Timed 5K run:
- $35 (through March 1)
- $30 (through Feb. 28)
- $30 (through March 4)
Children 12 and under receive free registration for the untimed event with a paid adult.
Awards will be distributed to the first-, second- and third-place male and female runners in each of the following age divisions for the 5-mile and timed 5K events:
- 12 and under, 13-19, 20-29, 30-39, 40-49, 50-59, 60-69 and 70+
Other ways to help
The community can also help without taking part in the run or walk itself, but by simply donating to the cause. They can do so by clicking here. To view sponsorship opportunities, click here. For more information, visit HeatTheStreetsOmaha.org, as well as the event’s Facebook page.
Both utilities urge any customers who are struggling with their bills to call their customer service representatives and talk through their options. For OPPD, that number is 402-536-4131 in the Omaha area. Outside of the metro, customers may call toll-free at 877-536-4131. M.U.D. customers should call 402-554-6666 or toll-free at 800-732-5864.