A variety of organizations work to connect Ohioans with assistance in keeping their homes heated in the winter, and the northwest Columbus-based Breathing Association is one of them, said Colette Harrell, director of heat and social services.

The Breathing Association promotes lung health and tries to prevent lung disease through education, detection, service and treatment, according to its website.

"Many of the people we assist are households that have someone with a diagnosis that would be exacerbated if they were cold or too hot in the summer," Harrell said.

The Ohio Development Services Agency works with just under 50 organizations to administer the Home Energy Assistance Program, said spokeswoman Penny Martin.

Funding for the program comes from the federal government, she said.

The HEAP Winter Crisis Program provides eligible Ohioans assistance if they are disconnected from their heating source, threatened with disconnection or if they have less than 25 percent supply of bulk fuel, according to the Breathing Association.

In order to qualify for the program, a household also must have a gross income at or below 175 percent of the federal poverty level.

For a family of four, annual income must be at or below $43,050.

The program got underway Nov. 1 and continues until March 31.

Last year, the Breathing Association took 8,500 applications for HEAP and served between 6,500 and 7,000 households, Harrell said. Some who didn't qualify received assistance under other programs, she said.

The Breathing Association's HEAP-application sites are:

* Its headquarters, 1520 Old Henderson Road, Columbus.

* OhioHealth Eastside Health Center, 4850 E. Main St., Columbus.

* Gladden Community House, 183 Hawkes Ave., Columbus.

* Total Wellness Concepts, 273 Schrock Road, Westerville.

"One of the things that's really important for people in Franklin County to know: Every day, we see people who didn't know about us," Harrell said. "We see people who are the new poor. We know there are more people out there we could serve. We don't want people to suffer through cold winters."

"We try to help as many Ohioans as possible," Martin said.

In addition to the Breathing Association application sites, Martin said, people can seek to participate in HEAP by calling 800-282-0880 or downloading an application at energyhelp.ohio.gov.

kparks@thisweeknews.com

@KevinParksTW1