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A distinguished partnership
DIXFIELD- Last week the board of selectmen voted Ike Libby as their Distinguished Citizen for 2012 and through the power of the press, Libby was surprised to read his name in the headline on Wednesday morning.
“I didn't know anything about it,” laughed Libby. “I was delivering in Canton and the customer congratulated me. I didn't really know what he was talking about and didn't ask. I had no idea. Then, I picked up the paper and there it was.”
Since the beginning of February, Hometown Energy has been in the headlines due to an unfortunate circumstance that turned out to be a blessing in disguise. When one of the oil company's customers couldn't afford to have more oil delivered and wanted to trade the title of his car for oil, Libby and his partner, Gene Ellis, knew they had to do something.
The New York Times had been looking for a story on the impact of heating costs in the northeast and when they inquired of a circumstance, Hometown Energy had the perfect one.
Following hundreds of phone calls, mailings, oil deliveries and countless tears, hugs and smiles; Hometown Energy created a board to stand watch dog over the assistance account they were able to set up with roughly $250,000 worth of generous donations from around the world.
“It's been a group effort,” noted Libby. “Gene has been a life saver. He worked on all the legal stuff and made sure the mail got opened and phone calls were made. He even jumped on the truck to make deliveries. I'm just the man behind the man. He makes me look good.”
Over the last couple of months the donations have dwindled and the phones have slowed, but the impact of the generosity and thoughtfulness hasn't ceased.
Technicians for Hometown Energy encountered a lady in the area who was living on her porch and after relaying her predicament to their bosses, money was taken out of the fund to get her to a better standard of living. They got her heat working so she could use her kitchen, worked on her plumbing and made her comfortable again.
On the wall as you enter the office there are several cards and notes that remain as a reminder of the generosity of others from around the world. A family from Boulder, Colorado sent a photo of themselves and wrote “Thank you” across the top, another card states, “Mr. Libby, you are a true inspiration and a wonderful American.”
Office staff, along with Libby and Ellis agree that things have quieted down, but it's still all overwhelming.
“A lot of good has come from this whole thing,” noted Libby.
In the beginning when things were really hectic and people were calling, Ellis and Libby set up meetings with area oil dealers.
“We wanted to help people from all over our area,” noted Libby. “Not just our customers. We weren't and still aren't out to steal anyone's business.”
Hometown Energy entrusted other oil companies to make their best judgment as to who was in legitimate need for assistance and began helping through the fund.
“It's been great working with the other companies,” noted Libby. “They were all on board with the idea and it helps us all out in the long run.”
Since the account was set up, Hometown Energy has been able to assist close to 100 households with deliveries of 100 gallons each; that averages about $370 per delivery that has come out of the fund thus far. Hometown Energy plans to suspend usage on the account from the end of April through October.
“At that point in the year people can survive,” noted Libby. “They don't need hot water and they won't die if they don't have it. We want this money to be there for those people who are freezing. And, I'm telling you right now, we will get a real Maine winter and we're going to need to use those funds.”
Libby noted that the board will brainstorm over the next few months to figure out what the future holds for the account; whether they will allow it to deplete or if they will do some sort of creative fundraising to keep it thriving.
Gene Ellis and Ike Libby created a partnership almost two years ago by combining their two businesses, Ellis' Variety and Hometown Energy, making business work for them.
Ellis and Libby agree that the real reward is when you're able to make a delivery to someone in need.