SOUTH PORTLAND, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- Vicki Whitaker is the guardian for her two young grandchildren. She is single and disabled, living on a fixed income.

She moved into a house to provide a better life for her children, but trying to pay for the oil to keep her family warm is forcing her to make difficult decisions. The modest home in South Portland has just enough space to give two small children the room to play and grow. But Whitaker's bedroom has become the playroom because it's the warmest room in the house. Even with plastic on the windows, the cost of heating oil has made it impossible to keep the entire house at a comfortable temperature.

"The really cold days we had, it had to be turned up," Whitaker told NEWS CENTER. "I had to use the oven to keep the downstairs warm. That's all I can do, you know? I don't know what else to do. I don't know who to call."

Whitaker can only afford to pay for fifty gallons of oil at a time. Every time the tank runs dry, she has to scrape enough money together to buy more.

"How do you explain to kids that tubbies have to be quick, and doing dishes and stuff, everything has to be fast." Whitaker said. "And I'm glad they don't realize that, I really do, because there's times I go to bed and I just cry and say what am I going to do? What am I going to do next week when I'm out of oil?"

It's a burden Vicki has tried to shoulder on her own, but she knows she and her family need help. She hopes Mainers will help each other get through the winter.

"It breaks my heart to know that I am not the only one. You know, I don't say, 'Why me' and 'Oh poor me.' It's why not? There are other people that have it worse off."

Phone lines for Project Heat will be open Thursday, January 16th from 5 a.m. until 7:30 p.m. To donate during those hours call 1-855-875-4328 or 1-855-874-9529. Donations can also be mailed to:

United Way
1 Canal Plaza #300
Portland, ME 04101
*please make sure to note that the donation is for Project Heat

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