Sometimes a little help can make all the difference.
This has been the guiding principle of the Alabama Business Charitable Trust (ABC Trust) for 30 years. Over those 30 years, these aids have combined to make a huge difference for hundreds of thousands of families across the state.
“I would say that over the past 30 years, the statewide community action network and nonprofit human services network wouldn’t be as influential as it is today without the support of the ABC Trust,” said Kris Rowe, executive director of the organization. Say. Alabama Community Action Association. “They’re not just providers of funding. They’ve been true partners in the Community Action Network.”
Founded by Alabama Power in 1992, the ABC Trust works with community action agencies, nonprofits, and the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs to support the energy needs of low-income households in 60 central and southern Alabama counties. The trust fund works with partner organisations to support climate projects and other basic human needs.
During those 30 years, the ABC Trust — which is not funded by taxpayer money — has grown and developed its energy assistance to meet the changing needs of low-income Alabamas and the nonprofits that work with them.
“It’s incredible to think about this milestone for the ABC Trust,” said Tan Grayson, who manages the trust as part of Alabama Power’s Charitable Giving. “While it’s great to look back on these accomplishments, we’re definitely looking forward with a focus on continuing to serve some of our state’s most vulnerable citizens.”
At the heart of ABC Trust’s mission is to provide emergency assistance to families struggling to pay their energy bills. Since its inception, the trust has distributed more than $34 million in emergency energy assistance to low-income families through community action agencies and nonprofit partners.
But trusts do much more than that. Today, it also provides other emergency support for families, including rental assistance and food security help.
Another energy assistance is provided through the Trust’s Home Forward scheme. It provides grants for energy system upgrades and energy-related climate improvements for low-income households. Eligibility is determined by the trust’s community action agency partner.
The Home Forward program is a double blessing. Not only does it provide valuable energy efficiency improvements for households with limited resources; these improvements also help households save on utility bills in the long term.
“Without the funding provided by the Home Forward grant, many of our low-income customers would not have access to the additional energy savings we are able to provide,” said Luke Laney, director of housing services for the Northeast Community Action Agency, Alabama, based in Rainesville. “These additional funds help these disadvantaged groups reduce energy costs so their money can be spent on food or other essentials.”
A similar concept applies to the Trust’s Efficiency Forward Plan. Created in 2007, it provides grants to human service nonprofits such as homeless shelters, children’s advocacy groups and food pantries to upgrade the energy efficiency of their facilities. Like the Home Forward program, Efficiency Forward helps reduce energy costs, but in this case, nonprofits can help those in need. These nonprofits, in turn, can repurpose the savings to provide additional services to clients.
Another newer product is the ABC Trust Community Grants Program. It provides small grants to nonprofits to support health and human services programs and an energy assistance program ($26,500 for a family of four) for Alabama households with incomes at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level. For the past three years, community grants have been used to support Alabama nonprofits addressing pandemic-related human needs.
“This pandemic has created significant economic challenges for low-income families and the many nonprofits dedicated to meeting human needs in our state,” Grayson said. “We were able to provide them with some relief using the community grant scheme.”
Rowe works with the Alabama Community Action Association and has a decades-long relationship with the ABC Trust. It started in the late 1990s when he was the climate change manager for the Community Action Agency (now known as the South Alabama Community Action Agency) in Baldwin, Escambia, Clarke, Monroe and Conecuh counties.
At the time, Rowe said the ABC Trust was already delivering innovative programmes to help low-income families in ways that helped fill the gaps left by other charitable and government agency programmes.
After becoming CEO of the South Alabama agency, Rowe continued to work closely with the ABC Trust. Today, that relationship continues in his role as the leader of the Statewide Community Action Association. He said the early vision and innovative thinking of the ABC Trust continues to this day.
“The Trust has always looked forward to how it can help improve its work to help change lives. The Trust has always shown that,” Rowe said.
Grayson said the ABC Trust board will continue to evaluate the effectiveness of the trust program and coordinate closely with community action agencies and other human services nonprofits. Goal: To ensure that trust remains an efficient and effective resource for families in genuine need.
“We are proud of the ABC Trust’s legacy of service over the past 30 years,” Grayson said. “But it’s clear that there is still a lot of demand from many Alabamaans.
“The Trust is committed to being a positive force in supporting our state’s families,” Grayson said. “Working with our partners, we hope to continue to change the lives of Alabamaians.”
For more information about the trust and its programs, visit powerofgood.com and click on ABC Trust.