WILBRAHAM, Mass. - Life has dealt Xenophon Beake some challenges and he now has to use different methods to stay warm during the winter.

What You Need To Know

  • Xenophon Beake is a Wilbraham retiree who receives fuel assistance from The Valley Opportunity Council

  • The Valley Opportunity Council is a non-profit organization based in Hampden County that provides community support to low- and moderate-income families

  • The council has seen a rise in applicants over the years, with over 12,000 applications this winter alone
  • The nonprofit suspects the cost of living to be a huge reason for the rise in applicants

"I was my late wife's caregiver," he said. "As soon as she passed away, my income was cut in half."

Beake receives fuel assistance from The Valley Opportunity Council. He takes steps to make sure he’s not letting any of it go to waste including adjusting the threshold on his door to handle incoming drafts.

"If you raise the threshold, then the rubbing of that wipe will eliminate a lot of the draft and then that's when the draft dodger comes in," Beake said, demonstrating the process. "It eliminates the rest."

Beake has also made lifestyle adjustments from opening window shades to let the sunshine warm up his home to keeping the lights off whenever he's not in a room.

"I keep the temperature at 69 to 70 degrees," he said. "But I've gotten accustomed to wearing a sweater in the house. If you're sitting here watching TV or working on the computer. You don't move around so you can get chilly very quickly."

According to the Valley Opportunity Council, there’s been a rise in the number of people receiving help over the years and this winter they have more than 12,000 applicants already in Hampden County.​

​The nonprofit suspects higher inflation as well as the pandemic are playing a huge factor in the need for assistance. Xenophon said the program is helping him survive.

"So what does it mean to me to have fuel assistance?" he said. "It means that I can keep my home. That's the bottom line and I won't apologize for reaching my hand out because I qualify and I worked for it."