Despite warm weather, time to think winter if you need assistance or want to donate

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- Winter might be the last thing on your mind this week, but it's time to think that way when it comes to help with heating bills and holiday needs.

Early predictions for a harsh, more expensive winter could lead to issues in the coming months, once Mother Nature decides to bring on the cold weather.

Tuesday marked the first day for the federal Low Income Energy Assistance Program, or LIHEAP, which runs through March. Families that meet low income qualifications can sign up through their county. You can find that information at the link here.

"Just Marion County is over 20,000 households (under LIHEAP), so there is a huge need out there and we are constantly working as hard as we can to meet that need," Mary Jones, with the United Way of Central Indiana, said.

The United Way also runs a Winter Assistance Fund, which starts in January, for families that don't qualify for LIHEAP. That fund runs entirely on donations, which are being accepted now.

"It’s (for) those folks that are just over the federal limit but still are struggling to meet their utility needs in the winter time," Jones said.

To find out if you qualify or how to get help for winter heating bills, call 211.

As for the holidays, drives are already underway across central Indiana. The Salvation Army's Angel Tree campaign took applications last month. You can find dates for the program here.

The United Way's United Christmas Service just started getting applications from caseworkers this week. It will start handing out vouchers to families in early December, so donations are also being accepted already.

Toys for Tots has placed its bins in stores across 14 counties already. New coordinator, Sgt. Justin Glass, is hoping to nearly double the number of families the program will help this season.

"Indianapolis is a wonderful place for donations because the people here are giving," Glass said.

It was his own personal experience that led him to put every effort into making this holiday season special.

"My family did Toys for Tots two years in a row and I was one of those kids to go to that (distribution) and get a toy, so it kind of hits home," Glass said.

If you want to sign up to receive help through Toys for Tots, a list of providers by zip code is online here. The last day to sign up is December 7 and the last day to donate a toy is December 19.

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