Winter is taking its toll on Heat-Up St. Louis.
The charity said this week it has helped 19,398 people with their heating bills so far this season; a 29 percent increase over last year at this time.
Pam Walker, director of the St. Louis Department of Health, is asking residents and businesses to donate to Heat Up.
"We are anticipating that as many as 55,000 people are going to need help this heating season," Walker said, "and Heat-Up St. Louis is in need of resources."
Walker said the all-volunteer charity receives $300,000 from the city and the rest comes from donations.
While a state law prevents utilities from turning off the heat when temperatures dip below 32 degrees, Walker said low-incomes resident sometimes turn off their own heat because they fear huge bills.
"We’re constantly hearing about people that are trying to live in their house maybe without gas and trying to use unsafe alternative heat sources," she said. "They don’t want to ask for help, they have a lot of pride. And these utility bills can just get out of hand very quickly."
Heat-Up primarily serves seniors, disabled and homebound residents.
Donations can be made at Heat-Up St. Louis or by sending a tax-deductible donation to: Heat-Up St. Louis, Inc., c/o UMB Bank, P.O. Box 868, St. Louis, MO 63188.