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A Detroit nonprofit aimed at helping others needs some aid of its own to put the power back on

Electricity at the House of Help Community Center was shut off Thursday due to nonpayment, the nonprofit’s leaders said. The situation is so dire, it plans to use flashlights to continue assisting those in the surrounding west side neighborhood who rely on the services.

“As a Non-Profit Faith-Based, and donation only organization, it is hard to keep up with the bills,” its Facebook page read. “...Without electricity we are limited on what we can do for the community here in Detroit.”

Scott Simons, a spokesman for DTE Energy, said the center made five payments in recent months and owes a significant amount; a shut-off notice was sent April 2. Pastor Ray Anderson, the nonprofit’s executive director, said after $8,400 was paid between January and April, the total arrears is about $16,000, with about half that needed simply to switch the lights back on.

“It is never DTE Energy’s desire to disconnect service to its customers, especially nonprofit organizations who help those in need in the community,” spokeswoman Erica Donerson said. “We have worked with the organization since last October to develop payment plans twice to help it avoid service interruption. Regrettably, it defaulted on both plans. We are more than willing and interested in continuing to work with House of Help and are hopeful it can generate the funds needed to restore service.”

Toni Anderson, director of operations, said she and her husband fell behind after declining donations from other groups and supporters in the last two years.

The huge tab was sparked by skyrocketing heating costs over the brutally cold winter, her husband said. Since the facility lacks an operable boiler, he said, “during the winter months we heated the building with electric heaters instead of gas … so the bill was ($4,000) or $5,000 a month.”

According to its website, House of Help is a “Christ-centered ministry committed to transforming lives in Detroit by providing services that meet practical needs in order to meet spiritual needs and develop strong families.” Offerings include food distribution, a tutoring program, health/fitness activities and a summer day camp.

Ray Anderson estimates the center, which has been operating since 2009 out of a former school, has doled out 4 million pounds of food to people in need. Through the services, House of Help has earned its distinction as “part of the glue for that neighborhood,” he said.

The center dispensed food without light Thursday and planned to continue operating, Toni Anderson said. “We’ll be using natural sunlight during the day until it starts to get dark, then we’ll be using flashlights.”

Meanwhile, more than 100 people attended a vigil at the nonprofit Thursday night to generate support, said Justin Wedes, an activist and co-founder of Detroit Water Brigade. The volunteer-led alliance has partnered with the center to help families unable to pay water bills, he said. Since so many people rely on them, “to see it suffering in this way is a huge psychological setback.”

At the vigil, one man donated $1.76, calling it “the last money I have to my life,” Wedes said. And Detroit Lions linebacker DeAndre Levy contributed a significant sum Friday, Ray Anderson said. Donations also are sought via http://houseofhelpcc.org.

A donor from New York has given $2,000 for the cause, but more is needed so the center can “continue to do what we do for the community,” Toni Anderson said.

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