Rockford's Alice Reed hasn't had her gas heat turned on for two months, and with the year's chilliest days several weeks away, she's extremely concerned.
"With no jobs anywhere for me, I need help. I'm not going to freeze, and they're so nice doing this," Reed said.
On Tuesday, Reed and thousands of others headed to assistance sites around the state. There, they applied for help from the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, or LIHEAP. The state and federal program with about $3 million available in Winnebago and Boone County, makes sure few, if any, people are left in the cold.
"We don't know what the weather has to offer us, but we do know that it will be far more expensive to get through this winter, not on gas, but home heating. People are out trying to get assistance, and we want to be here for them," Mark Bixby said.
To stay warm and keep costs down this winter, Mark Bixby recommends putting towels underneath doors to lock in heat, avoiding drafty rooms, and if you are the right age, keeping the thermostat at a reasonable temperature.
"When we are dealing with the elderly households, occupied by the disabled, households with young children, putting temperatures below 65 degrees Fahrenheit, we are not encouraging people to do this, but for people in relatively good health, 65 is cool, but it doesn’t offer a health threat," Bixby said.
Meanwhile, Reed will get word in the next month on how much, if any, heating assistance is on the way. She hopes LIHEAP can provide the things she once took for granted like cooking hot meals or taking hot showers.
"I think it helps a lot of people. For people with low incomes like myself, they are grateful. I'm grateful. It's going to help out tremendously in the whole Rockford area," Reed said.
It’s an area looking for any heating help it can get, and an agency hoping the majority of thermostats can stay on this winter season.