Times-Dispatch by Greg Edwards Former U.S. Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy II, D-Mass., made a special delivery of heating oil yesterday to the home of a 97-year-old Chesterfield County widow and a great-grandmother. Dressed in blue jeans and behind the wheel of a fuel-oil tanker truck, Kennedy, son of the late Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, D-N.Y., arrived at the home of Minnie “Susie” Elliot near Meadowbrook High School. Elliot said she was overwhelmed by the fuel delivery and news conference that followed. “I appreciate all you all coming,” she told Kennedy and other strangers who had descended on her home. Kennedy founded the nonprofit Citizens Energy Corp. during the oil-supply crisis in 1979 to provide heating assistance to the poor and the elderly. Citizens Energy was chosen by Citgo Petroleum Corp. and the Venezuela government -- which owns Citgo -- to provide more than 3.8 million gallons of discounted heating oil this winter to 20,000 low-income Virginia households. Citgo also will provide 200,000 gallons of heating oil free to Virginia homeless shelters this winter. Individual households can buy up to 200 gallons of heating oil at 60 percent of its normal price through the partnership. That amounts to roughly a $180 savings based on a price of $2.24 per gallon. In all, the partnership plans to deliver 100 million gallons of discounted fuel oil to 400,000 households in 16 states and the District of Columbia this winter, more than doubling the program’s size from its first winter in 2005-2006. Citgo also is providing oil directly to 163 American Indian Communities. Kennedy fielded questions about criticism directed at the fuel-assistance program, given the derogatory remarks Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez made about President Bush during an address to the United Nations in September. Chavez, an admirer of Cuba’s Fidel Castro, has been an outspoken critic of U.S. policy. Kennedy said he doesn’t condone Chavez’s remarks but said those who are upset should not turn their anger on a program whose goal is to help poor people. Venezuela, whose relationship with the United States is centuries old, supplies a large part of the U.S. crude oil, he notes. Last year, Venezuela accounted for 12.2 percent of the 12.55 million barrels of crude oil that the U.S. imported every day. Kennedy said that when he approached major oil companies and oil-producing countries last year to ask for help for the poor, Citgo and Venezuela alone stepped forward. Fernando Garay, a Citgo spokesman, said yesterday’s event was intended to get the word out about the program. Venezuela’s national oil company, Citgo’s parent, has similar efforts to help the poor in other countries where it operates, he said. The discount program can serve as a supplement to the energy aid that social services departments provide. Elliot has participated in the government’s low-income energy assistance program for about 10 years and gets her deliveries from Thurston Oil Co., in whose truck Kennedy made yesterday’s delivery. Citizens Energy Citgo-Venezuelan program, however, can help families with higher incomes than those eligible for government assistance. For example, a family of four with $45,000 annual income can take advantage of the partnership’s discounted fuel, while a similar family must have less than roughly $25,000 in income to qualify for government heating aid. Those interested in Citizens Energy’s program should call (877) 563-4645 for an application.