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Hundreds Turn Out In Savannah For Help With Heating Bills

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Crowds of Savannahians snaked around the building of the Economic Opportunity Authority (EOA) Saturday for a chance to get financial help with their bills.

"This line is for people to come in and get appointments," explained Deputy Director of EOA, Terry Tolbert.

Those anxiously awaiting to be called through the door were anticipating help with their heating bills.

"As soon as the weather changed, it went up in an instant," says Cheryl Smalls. "I knew I needed the funds."

The EOA offers assistance each year but this year, a bigger crowd lined the sidewalk.

"We have been issued some additional funds," Tolbert said.

Those extra funds enable them to assist 1300 more people, in addition to the 4,000 they already assist.

Cheryl Smalls considers herself lucky for just a chance for help. As a bus monitor in a school, she goes without a job when kids are out of school. She says that makes the living tough in times after the holidays.

Others in line face cuts in unemployment benefits and food stamps.

However, Tolbert says just as many employed Chatham County residents need the help.

"I think that in Chatham County, the poverty population is extremely high," he says.

"We actually decided to do this on a Saturday because we have a lot of people who work, who qualify for the program," Tolbert says.

He also remarked at how many people camped out over night for heat in their homes.

"We were amazed at how many people came quickly," he says.

Smalls hoped to get in for an appointment to assess financial help with her heating bill, among hundreds of others Saturday.

Tolbert said that as of 2 p.m. on Saturday, there were only about 200 people more the EOA could offer assistance to.

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