The summer heat can be miserable, especially if an already-strained budget can't be stretched farther to accommodate the added cost of air-conditioning.

Check it out:

Who: The Salvation Army of Shawnee

OG&E (Lend-A-Hand)

ONE Gas (Share the Warmth)

What: Energy Aid Month – Oklahomans Helping Others with Utilities

Baked Potato Sale (Baked Potato Fully loaded with Brisket, sour cream, butter, salsa, onions, peppers, cheese all for $6.50)

Where: The Salvation Army Soup Kitchen, 200 E. 9th St.

When: From 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. July 28

Eat-in, To-Go or Drive-By available. Call ahead at (405) 275-2243.

The summer heat can be miserable, especially if an already-strained budget can't be stretched farther to accommodate the added cost of air-conditioning.

In conjunction with Home Energy Aid Month — Oklahomans Helping Others with Utilities events are being held across various parts of the state to help Oklahomans in need.

The Shawnee Salvation Army is hosting a baked potato lunch fundraiser between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. Friday to raise funds.

The nonprofit seeks to assist area locals who struggle to keep up with the high cost of cooling their homes during the summer months.

Utility bills are an on-going challenge for seniors, persons with disabilities and families on low and fixed incomes.

The average request for an energy assistance bill is more than $130.

“Our average for 2016/2017 was $131.45 per household, yet in most communities, we are only able to help a handful of households per month due to limited funds available for utility assistance,” Salvation Army Social Services Director Diane Collins said.

She said to help assist those in need, utility customers are encouraged to support energy assistance programs year round.

The Salvation Army receives between hundreds to thousands of requests for assistance with utility bills annually.

“It is not uncommon after the first couple of days of the month to be out of utility assistance funding, yet the calls keep coming,” Collins said.

Studies show that the cost of helping an individual from homelessness to stable housing is about $8,000 per person along with additional expenses in medical caused by being homeless. In contrast, the cost of helping those same individuals with utility expenses to keep them housed is considerably less. A few hundred dollars of utility assistance for a family or individual can mean the difference of being able to stay in a home or becoming homeless.

Funds raised at the event stay in the Pottawatomie, Seminole, Lincoln County area, Collins said.

“Last year, close to $48,000 was raised during the Home Energy Aid Month events throughout Oklahoma,” she said. “Unfortunately, this number is down considerably from 2015’s total of close to $60,000 and 2016’s total of close to $53,000.”

Right now, during Home Energy Aid Month, Shawnee Salvation Army and its energy partners OG&E, ONG are seeking help with financial contributions.

To support the utility assistance program without attending the event, a donation marked “Home Energy Aid Month” may also be sent to The Salvation Army of Shawnee at 200 E. 9th St., Shawnee, OK 74801, or a donation can be submitted by checking the box on a utility bill.

For more information, call the Salvation Army at (405) 275-2243.

You can reach Vicky O. Misa at (405) 214-3962.