(Published Nov. 16, 2006, 9:38 a.m.)
Choosing between paying your heating bill, medical expenses or even putting food on the table is a decision most of us don't have to make.
Yet that's the tough choice tens of thousands of Wisconsin families and individuals will have to make this winter unless they receive financial assistance paying home-energy costs during the home-heating season.
Nearly 13 percent of the United States population lived in poverty in 2005, the fourth straight annual increase, according to the United States Census Bureau.
In an effort to assist people throughout Wisconsin, 112 participating Culver's restaurants will offer guests a "Give a buck, Get a buck" donation opportunity during its inaugural Week of Warmth partnership with state and local energy agencies.
Culver's will also kick off the event with a $10,000 donation that will be matched by the state, making it a $20,000 donation to help local families meet their home-heating needs.
Culver's guests who visit participating restaurants during Nov. 13-19 can help raise funds for local families and individuals through the Keep Wisconsin Warm Fund by purchasing a "Give a buck, Get a buck" certificate. Guests will not only be donating a dollar to the local charity in their area, they will also earn a dollar off their next Value Basket or dinner entree at Culver's. There are no limits to the amount of certificates a guest can purchase, with every dollar going to support local energy needs. In addition, guests can make a personal donation in any of the Week of Warmth countertop canisters that will be on display in each Culver's.
"Compounding factors in today's economy are resulting in no relief for Wisconsin residents struggling to pay their home-energy costs," said Timothy Bruer, honorary coordinator of KWWF, which has partnered with Culver's since 2003 to raise money for Wisconsin residents in a news release.
"Regardless of the reasons for the high energy prices, families in every community in Wisconsin are struggling to just get by. Through the generosity of Culver's and its guests, Keep Wisconsin Warm Fund and our local partners will be able to help thousands of families throughout the state keep their families safe and warm this winter."
From October 2005 to September 2006, the KWWF provided energy assistance to 18,605 households in Wisconsin.
While many two-income families can pay their higher energy bills by cutting back on discretional spending such as entertainment, the burden for those costs is particularly difficult for the elderly, disabled or families with young children who may also be paying child care.
In partnership with the state of Wisconsin's 2006 1-to-1 matching program for individual and non-utility company donations, Culver's family of restaurants in Wisconsin hopes to exceed last year's contributions. The generosity of guests, Culver's owners and a matching grant from the state raised $175,000 for Wisconsin families in 2005.
"The American dream is to own your own home and send your children to school, not to hope your family won't have to choose between medication, food and energy costs," explains Lea Culver, Culver's co-founder. "That's why our local franchisees have committed to assisting their neighbors. We care about our neighbors and want to help them. If combining our efforts for one week will prevent residents from facing those difficult choices, then that's what we have to do."
Funds raised through the 2006 Week of Warmth will be provided to locally operated nonprofits and public/private partnerships working with statewide charitable energy funds to provide assistance to families and individuals in crisis. Support for these programs is mobilized from corporations, individuals and community groups.
Culver's restaurants are independently owned and operated in more than 335 locations. With the opening of Culver's first restaurant in Arizona, guests will be able to enjoy their favorites in 17 states across the nation. The owner/operator concept has been a cornerstone of growth for Culver's since the first location opened in Sauk City, Wis. on July 18, 1984. Culver's invests deeply in partnerships and programs, including its VIP scholarship program, Culver's Cares charitable program and countless other franchise-driven local efforts. Culver's is the recipient of numerous industry and community awards, including the 2006 IFMA Silver Plate Award, 2005 Nation's Restaurant News' Golden Chain Award and Wisconsin's Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award. For more information on Culver's locations, promotional programs, menu selections and other areas of interest, visit www.culvers.com.
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