OAKLAND — One person bought a dozen homemade cookies for $100; another handed Kerri Oliver an envelope stuffed with $20 bills totaling $500.

In one month, people from Kennebec County to California have pledged nearly $9,000 to help heat homes of people in need in Oakland-based Regional School Unit 18.

Oliver, who represents Sidney on the school board, spearheaded the 5 for 5 heating fuel campaign.

Her initial goal was to raise $5,000 to pay for oil and propane for families in need in the five district communities of Belgrade, China, Oakland, Rome and Sidney.

That goal was met and surpassed.

“People who gave gave without reservation,” Oliver said. “They wanted to keep their neighbors warm.”

In February and March, 14 families in district’s towns have had their oil or propane tanks filled with heating fuel.

Oliver said recipients were notified by phone that they would be getting a free delivery as part of the school district oil fund.

“Probably some of them (initially) thought it was a crank call,” Oliver said.

One beneficiary cried, she said.

Oliver, who is a 1985 Mount View High School graduate, said she was inspired by her high school English teacher Tanya Hubbard to begin a campaign.

Hubbard, who has taught for 36 years, initiated a 5 for 5 drive in Waldo County; she sought to raise $5,000 to pay for heating fuel for five families in Waldo County.

Hubbard was spurred to take action after overhearing a woman ask a pharmacist to cut her prescribed pills in half so she could have enough money to afford food and heating fuel.

Hubbard said community members had supported her during her various health challenges and she wanted to show others that same compassion and generosity.

Oliver decided to thank and honor Hubbard by also “paying it forward.”

“She touched my life then (in high school), and she’s touching my life 25 years later,” Oliver said when she announced the campaign in February.

Oliver said the 35 people who donated to her campaign came from all five district towns, as well as small and large businesses and parent-teacher groups.

Honeywell, a company working on energy-efficiency projects in the district, pledged $5,000, Oliver said.

Donations also came from as far away as Florida as word of the campaign spread on Facebook.

“Everybody gave a little (from each community), and each town got back more than the town members donated,” she said.

Fabian Oil in Oakland provided oil and propane at prices that allowed the fund to be stretched to assist more people, Oliver said.

Now that temperatures have topped 60 degrees, Oliver said, she no longer is soliciting fuel money actively.

She said any pledged money that trickles in this spring will be placed in a fund to be used when cold weather strikes again.

“It’s been such a positive thing,” Oliver said, adding she learned that many educators and members of parent teacher groups “pay it forward” in myriad ways all year long without recognition.


Beth Staples — 861-9252

[email protected]

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