St. Stephen food bank makes appeal for families with power disconnected

Kathy Bockus/Courier Food bank coordinator Donna Linton is accepting donations for St. Stephen area families who have had their power disconnected for non-payment of their bills.

St. Stephen – The local food bank has launched an appeal to help five St. Stephen area families whose power has been disconnected for unpaid electricity bills.

Donna Linton, coordinator of the Volunteer Centre of Charlotte County, which operates the food bank in St. Stephen, said the first donation in answer to the appeal came in last Wednesday morning.

“He said he had experienced the same hardship in the past,” said Linton of the man who brought in water, grapes, bread, and bananas.
What Linton said she finds shocking is that the unfortunate families have been told it will take anywhere from two to 12 weeks before they’re reconnected, and only after the balance of their bills are paid.

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“Those arrears have to be paid completely off before they are connected,” said Linton.
Linton said the families told her they couldn’t keep up with the payment arrangements they had made with NB Power.

She said one woman had just started a job and was expecting her first pay cheque on Friday last week. The woman had made arrangements to pay $500 on Tuesday before she was paid, and another $500 that Friday. However, Linton said the woman’s power was disconnected Tuesday.

The families affected live in the rural outskirts of St. Stephen, and when they have no power, they have no water explained Linton, noting the people have wells, and need electricity to power their water pumps for drinking, washing, and flushing a toilet.

Linton said she received a call from Ganong Bros., Limited who said staff there intended to donate water and other food items.
Items needed, besides the water, are granola bars, fruit cups and fruit, bread, Cheese Whiz, peanut butter, canned meats, condiments, non-perishable chunky soups and stews, as well as single serving juices, as there is no power for refrigerated items.

Linton said donations of paper plates and cutlery would also be appreciated because the families can’t wash dishes without water. Gift cards in any denomination would be appreciated. Linton said the families in need who do pay their power bills often go without boots, coats, medicine, and food.

In an email, a spokesperson for NB Power said the corporation understands the difficulties that arise when a family has no electricity, which is why it works closely with customers to make payment arrangements through a variety of methods.

“Disconnects are always a very last resort when all other options have been exhausted.
“Our goal is to always help customers manage their bills before an outstanding balance becomes an overwhelming problem.”

The spokesperson said customers are encouraged to contact NB Power at 1-800-663-6272 if they are having problems paying their power bills, or if they anticipate problems in the future.

“In most cases we can help create a manageable payment schedule, to avoid falling behind. We can also connect them with other resources that might be able to help.

“When the bill is paid, the customer is immediately reconnected without delay.”

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Kathy Bockus
Journalist Kathy Bockus is based in St. Stephen and has worked for The Saint Croix Courier as a general news reporter and feature writer for the past 15 years. She began her lengthy newspaper career in 1974 with a daily in Saint John. Bockus says she always jokes being a reporter is a licence to be nosey, but firmly believes that everyone has a story to tell. She can be contacted at 321-0759.