Ashely Sauer, 28, knows first-hand what it is like to grow up in poverty. She still remembers days when her family did not have enough money to pay their electricity bill.

Growing up in the High Desert, she can recall heading to the local Energy Assistance Fund office sponsored by Southern California Edison (SCE) with her mother and sister in search of financial help.

Today, Sauer helps oversee SCE’s Energy Assistance Fund, a program that assists low-income families throughout SCE’s 50,000-square-mile service territory receive help paying for their electricity. All of the funds are donated by SCE employees and customers. 

“For me personally, I grew up living in poverty so I certainly know how it feels growing up without power,” said Sauer, who has worked for SCE the past six years. 

The Energy Assistance Fund is SCE’s nonprofit charitable organization and since it was founded in 1982 has helped over 200,000 households. Last year alone, the fund assisted more than 14,000 households and provided $1.4 million in grants. Each year, SCE’s parent company Edison International matches employee donations to the Energy Assistance Fund up to $2,000.

Income-qualified SCE customers can receive a maximum grant of $100 in a 12-month period to help pay their electricity bill. Many of those who qualify are seniors, disabled or families with young kids. Income guidelines can be found at sce.com/EAF.

Sauer has been donating to the Energy Assistance Fund since she started working at SCE in 2008. She often takes part in the various employee giving fundraising events that help raise money for the program. SCE customers can also round-up their monthly electricity bill or donate their rebates from the utility’s Appliance Recycling Program.

“I’ve experienced that hardship so it’s fulfilling to help people,” said Sauer. “We can help these customers that may be your neighbors or family members who are struggling. It’s an opportunity to help them.”

Donations can be made to SCE’s Energy Assistance Fund year-round, but their signature fundraising event is the “Gift of Light” golf tournament on Sept. 19 at the Black Gold Golf Course in Yorba Linda. For more information about the tournament: www.bit.ly/EAFGolf.

Bianca Arambula, 28, works in SCE’s Customer Service department and has been a regular donor to the fund through the company’s annual employee giving campaign since she started at the utility seven years ago. This year, she’s helping organize the golf tournament’s banquet. 

“I give back because I am passionate about helping others,” she said. “Especially during these hard times, everybody goes through ups and downs in life. A small contribution would make a huge difference to help those in need.”

The Energy Assistance Fund partners with the United Way of Greater Los Angeles and more than 70 nonprofits throughout SCE’s service territory to help customers apply for the fund at their offices. 

SCE customers like Beatrice are grateful that programs like the assistance fund are available.

“It gives people the basic needs and … a utility is something you need,” she said. 

Customer Irene echoed the same sentiment: “What you guys do, it helps a lot of families, and I want to tell you guys, thank you.”