TUPELO – Tombigee Electric Power Association customers will get the chance to help needy families through a voluntary round-up program called “Good Friends.”

All proceeds raised by the effort will go to The Salvation Army, which will distribute the money to those TEPA customers in need of utilities, food, clothing or medical assistance.

“The idea came up through our board of directors as a way of using our association to put together a program ... to help other members that are having some sort of financial difficulties,” said Bill Long, TEPA general manager.

Starting Jan. 1, customers wishing to participate can sign a form authorizing TEPA to round their monthly bills up to the nearest 50 cents. A bill of $90.51, for example, would be rounded up to $91.

The average participant will pay about 25 cents per month and never more than 49 cents.

Long said TEPA has 42,000 customers. But because this program is the first of its kind for the utility provider, no one has been able to predict the kind of reception it will receive from customers.

If everyone opts into the program, it could potentially raise about $125,000 annually. Those kinds of funds would make a huge difference for The Salvation Army, said its commanding officer, Maj. Sue Dorman.

“It will help greatly,” Dorman said. “We’ve had to turn families away because we don’t have the income we need to help everyone. We get 10-12 requests daily for utility assistance or rent assistance.”

Only people who get their power from TEPA can qualify for assistance, according to the program rules released by the utility’s board.

Contact Emily Le Coz at (662) 678-1588 or emily.lecoz@djournal.com.

Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal

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