ELLSWORTH, Maine — As the temperatures outside plummet, heating needs inside rise — and a unique fundraising project concocted by some generous folks, including author Stephen King, is warming the heart of one woman who is trying to help others make it through the winter.

“I just got off the phone with a woman with a desperate need for fuel. The stories are just heart wrenching,” Sister Lucille MacDonald of the Emmaus Center, a homeless shelter in Ellsworth, said Monday. “You just never know what little ways people are struggling on the opposite side, to try and find ways and means to help people.”

She said she was delighted to learn of the donation of a rare Stephen King book to the center, with proceeds of its sale to be used to help low-income families in the Ellsworth area purchase fuel oil. The limited-edition 1996 hardcover copy of “The Regulators” recently was signed by King in order to boost its value for fundraising purposes. Other limited-edition copies of the book now available for sale online that were signed by King under his pen name Richard Bachman, are listed as being worth $1,450 to nearly $2,000.

“This is a great idea, and it is wonderful that Stephen agreed to sign the book,” MacDonald said. “People are so generous, and I am so grateful.”

An anonymous donor gave the book after inheriting it from the Minnesota bookbinder who made it. Tim Clark died in 2006, after a well-lived life that included working on space research at the University of Iowa, photography and art, as well as hand-binding books.

“This was something that he certainly would support,” his widow, Ginny Clark of Maple Grove, Minn., said this week. “Helping people less fortunate was always [his passion]. Whether he was out there helping them build something, or helping our domestic violence centers, he was just a pretty incredible human being. He cared about people.”

Tim Clark left that book to a friend with Maine connections, she said, adding that her husband considered the chance to work on a limited-edition Stephen King book a unique and great opportunity.

“He was lucky to have acquired that book,” she said. “He would be so pleased that it was going to help people less fortunate and getting them some fuel for their fire. It’s very, very cool. Someone will cherish that book, I’m sure.”

Only 552 copies of the rare edition were printed and sold by the Dutton/Penguin imprint. Clark handcrafted 500 with a special slipcase cover, including the volume that will be auctioned off for charity. Another 52 deluxe editions had a spent Winchester .30-caliber bullet embedded in the cover, according to information provided by Emmaus.

The book is on display at Scottie’s Bookhouse on Route 1 in Hancock, where it can be inspected by potential buyers. Bookstore owner Michael Riggs is coordinating the process of accepting bids for the book, which will be taken through Jan. 31.

MacDonald said that whatever money is raised through its sale will help people who really need it.

“People are sitting at home under blankets,” she said. “People are struggling.”

Although they’ve been told that the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, or LIHEAP, funds are coming, the money has yet to arrive.

“What do they do in the interim time? We are the gap to help these people,” MacDonald said of the Emmaus Center and other social service agencies.

While most fuel companies generally require a sale of at least 100 gallons, the local businesses have been working with the agencies to provide smaller purchases of 50 gallons or so.

“We’re all trying to work together as a community to make it through this difficult time,” she said. “People are coming with gas tanks — 5- and 10-gallon tanks — looking for that much fuel to get through the night. And thank God we’re able to help them. I don’t think I could go to sleep at night if I didn’t help in some little way … You always have to look for something positive. That’s what keeps you going. For people like the anonymous donor, who are trying to find ways and means to get a little bit in the purse to try and help someone.”

To contact Michael Riggs at Scottie’s Bookhouse, call 667-6834. Bids for the rare edition also can be submitted via email at scottybooks@yahoo.com.