“Thank You From The Bottom of my Heart”: In Their Own Words

“Thank You From The Bottom of my Heart”: In Their Own Words

A recent client who received energy assistance through Oregon Energy Fund and our partner Self-Enhancement Inc. shared their experience with us. 

“You have made managing and surviving through our current crisis possible. Your kind spirit and incredible concern for my family has been encouraging and uplifting. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.”

– Anonymous, Oregon Energy Fund recipient

A smiling older woman in a tank top stands in front of an ocean sunset.

This year, a combination of events left Sharon and her husband with multiple hospital visits, a foreclosure on their home, and over $100,000 in medical bills. The costs had made it impossible to keep up on their energy bills, and they had fallen very far behind.

Joining forces with another partner, OEF was able to provide enough funds to catch them up and leave a zero balance on their utility account. Sharon says:

“Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! You are so, so wonderful. I am without words right now.” 

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Back To School: Oregon Energy Fund Launches First Year of the Student Program

Back To School: Oregon Energy Fund Launches First Year of the Student Program

As Oregonians prepare for a school year unlike any other, we here at Oregon Energy Fund are excited to launch our very first Year of the Student program: a collaboration with KairosPDX, a K-5 public charter school in NE Portland. Modeled after our successful Senior Discount Pilot Program, this project will provide monthly payments to help students and their families cover their energy bills for the next year. 

1 in 5 families with children nationwide struggle to pay their bills annually. Yet the impact on learning has gone largely unaddressed. The stress can cause students to have difficulty concentrating and completing schoolwork. Many experience hunger and illness as families cut back on food or medicine to pay the bills, making them tired and more likely to miss class. 

Our new Student Discount Program will address this problem by providing $20 in credit to qualifying KairosPDX families each month, paid directly to their utility accounts. By reducing the amount of income spent on energy, families will have more money in their budgets for food and other basic needs at a time when many are struggling to make ends meet.  

And in year when many students will be attending school virtually, it’s essential to ensure families can keep their lights on, laptops charged, and meals prepared. 

KairosPDX uses a multi-generational, multicultural approach to provide high-quality education to historically underserved children in the Portland community. Staff members will help families register for the program, eliminating the need to contact an outside agency or keep track of documents.

“In light of COVID-19, we’ve seen an increase in demand for basic needs such as food and technological access,” said Andrew Ayala, KairosPDX Development and Policy Specialist. “By providing recurring energy assistance to the most vulnerable members of our learning community, we can help build the foundation our children and families need to weather the coming economic downturn.” 

We’re excited to partner with KairosPDX for this groundbreaking project. We look forward to sharing more stories and finding new ways to ensure the continued success of Oregon students!  

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What Do I Do When the Power Goes Out?

What Do I Do When the Power Goes Out?

Many Oregonians rarely experience unplanned power outages, thanks to mild weather and a robust utility grid. However, this means that when the electricity goes out during a particularly nasty storm or areas are disconnected to protect against wildfires, it can be hard to know what to do. Here are a few tips to keep your home and your family safe during a temporary power outage.

Image of a flashlight

DO: Use flashlights and battery-powered appliances to see

Keep multiple flashlights or battery-powered camp lights in strategic places around the house, so you can easily find one in the dark. Check regularly to make sure the batteries still work and replace them if not.

Image of a candle with a "No" symbol in front of it.

DON’T: Use candles or indoor generators

Who doesn’t love a cozy, candlelit room? The fire department, that’s who. While they might seem like a romantic way to get through a power outage, candles cause thousands of home fires each year and dozens of fatalities. The risk of fire is particularly severe if your power has been disconnected due to high wildfire risk. However, the danger exists year-round; the highest number of candle-related fires each year is at Christmas.

Similarly, using a generator indoors can result in severe and even fatal carbon monoxide poisoning. If you own a generator, follow safety protocols by only operating it outdoors and 15 feet away from any structures.

Image of an iPhone in a red case.

DON’T: Use the flashlight app on your phone

The flashlight app on your phone can be helpful in a pinch, but the powerful light will quickly drain your battery. Using actual flashlights will help extend your phone life, which is important for checking for updates from your utility company or contacting emergency services. If you can afford it, consider purchasing an external battery charger for your phone in the event of a lengthy outage.

Image of green, red, and blue woven hats.

DO: Have an outage kit of hats, blankets, and batteries

An unplanned power outage can mean that your home rapidly loses its temperature. This can be particularly uncomfortable in the winter or during a cold snap. Ensure you and your family can stay warm by having a pre-stocked, easily accessible outage kit with hats, blankets, and extra batteries. Check the Portland General Electric or Pacific Power websites to see their recommended outage kits.

Image of a cardboard box filled with cans of Campbell's chicken noodle soup.

DO: Stock up on water and canned food (and a can opener!)

Preparing meals without electric appliances like the stove or a microwave can be more than a little challenging. When you put your outage kit together, be sure to include a variety of non-perishable food, such as canned beans and vegetables, granola bars, and peanut butter, along with plenty of bottled water. Don’t forget to toss in a spare can opener!

Image of a power strip completely filled with plugs and cords.

DO: Unplug your electronics

There’s always the possibility of a power surge when the lights finally come back on. Protect your appliances and electronics by unplugging them right away.

Image of a person dialing a number on their mobile phone.

DO: Contact your utility company

Reporting a power outage to your utility provider can help them understand the extent of the outage, identify the source, and restore power efficiently. If your power is out, call the company or report the outage on their website or app. (We recommend programming the number into your phone in case you aren’t able to access the internet.) Many utilities also provide real-time outage maps, and allow you to sign up to receive text updates. 

Image of a police car with a "No" symbol in front of it.

DON’T: Call 911

You should only call 911 in the case of an emergency. Do not call to report a power outage or a downed power line.

Oregon utility providers are often able to restore power promptly in the event of an outage. However, if it is unsafe to remain in your home, especially because of temperature concerns, call 211 or visit 211info.org to find a cooling or warming center near you.

Introducing: The Year of the Student

Introducing: The Year of the Student

When we say “college student,” what do you imagine?

Often depicted as young, wealthy, and spoiled, today’s college students are actually older, frequently have kids of their own, and are buried under debt. In fact, a third of all undergrads live in poverty — and many others are perched dangerously close to the edge.

This has dire consequences. Surveys have found that more than half of students at Portland State University, the University of Oregon, and Western Oregon University experience hunger and food insecurity.

In the Oregon Community College system, 52% of students were housing insecure last year, with 1 in 5 unable to pay their full utility bills. Alarmingly, most of these students were also employed, with many working more than 30 hours a week.

This enormous strain can destroy a student’s shot at academic success. Hungry or financially burdened students are more likely to lose sleep, miss class, see their grades fall, and even drop out. While financial assistance can prevent this from happening, few on-campus resources exist, leaving students in great peril. Something must be done.

Back in 2018, we announced the “Year of the Senior,” with a focus on supporting older Oregonians. While we’re not leaving seniors behind, we’ll be shifting our attention in the coming months to a new group, with a new set of programs and funding.

From colleges to elementary schools, single parents to young kids, we believe that the challenges facing students require fresh ideas and meaningful action — and we’re ready to meet the challenge. Times are changing. We’re excited to introduce the Year of the Student.

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Oregon Energy Fund Assists With COVID-19 Relief Efforts

Oregon Energy Fund Assists With COVID-19 Relief Efforts

None of us expected 2020 to go this way.

As the year began, we were planning grants, new partnerships, a month of events at the Oregon Public House. Instead, we were hit with the coronavirus pandemic — and, as unemployment rose, an urgent spike in the need for energy assistance.

We’ve all seen how severely the pandemic has jeopardized the ability to pay basic expenses, from rent to groceries. Utility bills have caused just as much anxiety. One national study found that two-thirds of Americans who have lost their jobs are very or somewhat concerned about their bills, with 26% saying they would have to skip a gas or electric payment.

The situation is unprecedented. But when the call for help comes, we answer. Pivoting to these urgent challenges, we and our partners adapted our policies and systems to help struggling families receive assistance safely and quickly, including applications by phone and email. We also decided to release our next round of funding at the end of summer, nearly three months early.

Image of two pie charts with the header "How do you feel about your energy bills as a result of the current situation." The pie chart on the left shows "Overall Results." 12% are very concerned, 28% are somewhat concerned, 48% are not concerned, and 12% don't know/don't pay attention. The pie chart on the right shows "Those Who Have Lost Their Jobs." 34% are very concerned, 32% are somewhat concerned, 22% are not concerned, and 12% don't know/don't pay attention.

Most importantly, we saw our supporters — people just like you — rise to the challenge of helping our neighbors in need. We’ve received hundreds of individuals donations, along with grants from CareOregon, United Way of Lane County, and the Flanigan Family Foundation.

In just three months, we raised more than $60,000 to help Oregonians impacted by COVID-19 pay their energy bills — a truly inspiring show of support in these difficult times. And since March, we’ve provided emergency to funds to more than 750 people and 300 families.

We’ve also received two generous contributions from the Pacific Power Foundation and the Meyer Memorial Trust to help cover our staff and admin costs. This ensure our own stability and allows our donors’ gifts to help those who need it most.

But this is far from over. Even as the lockdowns ease, the need for energy assistance will reach heights we have never seen. It will take all of us working together to map the road to recovery.

And so we say: thank you to those who have supported us so far. To those who need help, we’re here for you. And to those who are able, please join us in this vital work, and give today for a brighter tomorrow. 

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5 Cheap and Easy Ways to Stay Cool This Summer

5 Cheap and Easy Ways to Stay Cool This Summer

Temperatures are climbing — but that doesn’t mean your bills have to rise too. Before reaching for the A/C this summer, try these easy tips to keep your home cool and your energy costs low.

Graphic of the sun on a yellow background.

Use curtains to block the sun

Graphic of an ice cube on a blue background.

Put a bowl of ice in front of a fan

Image of a plant on a green background.

Fill your house with plants

Image of a plug on a red background.

Unplug unnecessary appliances

Image of a fan on a light blue background.

Create a cross breeze

Statement on George Floyd and #BlackLivesMatter

Statement on George Floyd and #BlackLivesMatter

In the weeks since George Floyd’s murder, as important conversations about race and justice have engulfed the country, we at Oregon Energy Fund have remained quiet. We’ve done so out of respect, the desire to learn, and to make space for Black voices and other groups whose missions are more focused on social change than ours. But we also know that silence, in its own way, can be problematic. And so, at this critical time, we say to our donors, our partners, our clients, our volunteers, and all others:

Black Lives Matter.

To say Black Lives Matter is not only to demand an end to the racist violence that led to the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and too many others. It is to acknowledge, and work to solve, the many other systems that oppress Black Americans on a daily basis — right in our own backyard. Here in Oregon, Black people comprise just 2% of the population but 25% of people in poverty. They are twice as likely as white people to be severely energy burdened, due both to systemic barriers that have created lower education rates and lower incomes, and also to racist practices like redlining that have forced them into poorly insulated homes in more polluted neighborhoods. We must reckon with these facts, no matter how unpleasant they may be. For Black Lives Matter is not only about lives lost. It’s about the lives still unfolding, and those yet to come, and building a more equitable society where those lives can flourish. As Bryan Stevenson has written, “the opposite of poverty isn’t wealth. It’s justice.”

As a predominantly white organization, we strive to identify our own blindspots and prioritize the needs of our most vulnerable neighbors. We believe deeply in our mission to provide energy assistance to all Oregonians, regardless of race, ethnicity, or birthplace; and also in our Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Plan, which directs our programs to directly serve and support historically marginalized people. We stand with our partners, especially those like Self Enhancement Inc., Latino Network, NAYA, and IRCO, who have deep ties with Portland’s Black community and have led the way in fighting systemic racism. We are grateful too for the work of Black scholars like Dr. Tony Reames (Univeristy of Michigan) and Dr. Diana Hernández (Columbia University), whose landmark research has deepened our understanding of energy insecurity and guided our evolution as an organization.

Image showing OEF clients by ethnicity. 39.4% are white, 28.5% are Hispanic/Latino, 12.9% are Non-Hispanic/Latino, and 8% are Black/African American. Smaller breakdowns (numbers not given) include American Indian, Asian, Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander, Other, and Decline to State.

Oregon Energy Fund’s programs serve around 60% people of color.


There is much yet to be done. But in our work and our hearts, the staff and board of Oregon Energy Fund are committed to transforming our state into a place where Black lives not only matter, but thrive. We stand with the Black community.

Rick’s Story

Rick’s Story

We recently heard from one family who was helped by our increased funding in rural Oregon. Rick and his wife Ada are loving parents to a preschooler and a newborn infant. Both Rick and Ada work full-time, but daycare costs for two children have taken a toll in their finances.

Rick grew up in a poor family, and couldn’t afford dental care as a kid. Because of this, he’s battled a number of infections in his teeth, and had to undergo oral surgery last year – a significant out-of-pocket expense. The cost of the surgery left Rick and Ada unable to pay for heating oil as the winter progressed. By the time we heard from them, their oil tank was empty, and they had no way to keep their family warm.

Fortunately, our increased funding allowed us to provide them with 100 gallons of heating oil, enough to keep their home warm until spring and help them rebuild their finances. Thank you to our anonymous donor!

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OEF & PGE Volunteers Help Out at Meals on Wheels

OEF & PGE Volunteers Help Out at Meals on Wheels

Oregon Energy Fund teamed up with our friends at Portland General Electric back in December to spend a day volunteering at Meals on Wheels People!

Image of three smiling men preparing meals in an industrial kitchen.Image of an older woman sitting at a table writing a card that says "Merry Christmas!"

We prepared and served hot meals to our neighbors, wrote holiday notes, and even signed some folks up for energy assistance with our Senior Discount Pilot Program.

We had a great time and hope to be back again soon!

Volunteer with Oregon Energy Fund