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Local church program to pay their electric bills frustrates residents

12:01 AM, Jan 22, 2013   |    comments
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church set out to bring light to the neighborhood by helping people pay their electric bills.

But a month later, people who enrolled in the program say they were left in the dark.

April Wilson has been trying to get the lights turned back on since Christmas.

"We're fighting it right now, we're fighting it, I paid part of the bill. But I'm still behind because it was promised they were going to pay my bills," she said.

Before the holiday, Wilson was sure she was going to get some relief.

Shiloh Metropolitan Church was running a program that would help families in need pay their delinquent electric bills.

Wilson says she made an appointment with the church and brought a copy of her bill and license, but the church never came through.

"You put it out to the community that you were going to bless us and help us, especially that time of year, it's really hard. Especially this time of year, it's just really hard. And I'm just so sad the church would do this to us," she said.

Wilson says she's waited months to hear back from the church, and her mom and neighbors are in the same position.

They were depending on the church to help pay the bills, but never got any relief.

Pastor Reginald Bryant with the church says that the outpouring of need is why they couldn't help everyone.

"It went viral. We were just trying to help people and the next thing you know it's on facebook, people are coming out of nowhere, and we just did the best that we could. We contacted people to let them know that the plug was pulled on funding," said Pastor Bryant.

The Church partnered with local non-profit groups to help as many people as they could.

When the funding ran out, they had to stop processing the requests.

He says they budgeted for about 300 people, and more than a thousand showed up in need of help.

"It basically shows us the need in our community. There's a serious need for employment, there's a serious need in regard to education. And there are people that are hurting," said Bryant.  

Bryant says the church shredded all the personal information of the people they couldn't help, and hopes they can run another program that would help more people somewhere down the line.

But to the people the program couldn't help this time, that's not good enough.

"I did everything they asked me to do, and they gave me empty promises," said Wilson.

Now if you need help yourself, or want to donate to help people who are in need, JEA runs a program called neighbor to neighbor for people who can't afford their light bill.

To enroll in the program, or to donate, you can call JEA at 665-6000, or mark it on your next bill.




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