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Meeting people where they live

LIHEAP Saves Lives — Brian Oddo

Brian Oddo lived most of his adult life without having to ask anyone for help. In fact, as a police officer, he was accustomed to being looked to for assistance. However, shortly before Hurricane Katrina changed New Orleans forever, Brian was an officer with the Chalmette Police Department and scrambling to run a lawn service business in his spare time.

Unfortunately, while on a motorcycle, Brian was struck and severely injured by a pickup truck. The accident required life support and six months in intensive care. Although Brian recovered, he is still disabled. A permanent steel rod in his leg compounds his health problems.

The wreck and its resulting disability put Brian and his family in a financial tailspin, but they still earned enough to meet their responsibilities and to even allow Brian's wife to attend community college. The Oddos rebuilt their lives to the point that they were able to purchase a home in July 2005. But things changed for the worse a month later when Hurricane Katrina struck Chalmette. The Oddo's home was destroyed.

After moving to Shreveport, Brian rented a home in Ponchatoula; but, this hard-working family was unable to fully recover financially. In fact, things got so bad the Oddos received an electricity disconnect notice for the first time in their lives.

They worked hard to keep this from their four kids. Brian's disability and Hurricane Katrina forced the Oddos to ask for help keeping the lights on for themselves and their children.

"I was doing whatever it took to get my bills paid. It was a crisis. I've never had to ask for this kind of help before. Like so many of our neighbors, we've never been in a situation like this before," says Oddo.

Fortunately, Brian found the Quad Area Community Action Agency and asked for help through LIHEAP, which provides emergency utility bill payment assistance to low-income individuals and families, particularly the elderly and disabled, in financial need or crisis.

"It wasn't easy to ask. But I had to do it," Brian said.

Today, Brian is working for the Quad Area Community Action Agency, helping others to weatherize their homes and to permanently reduce their energy costs. He's discovered people who, like himself, needed a hand-even if only briefly-to overcome a tough financial challenge.

"Now I'm doing the same thing others once did for me - helping them through tough times," Brian said. "Getting LIHEAP's help was the turning point for our family, and I can't say enough good things about it."

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