Now that the "most wonderful time of the year" has arrived, Sumterites are asked to share their holiday spirit throughout the community by donating to the annual Fireside Fund.
With the help of Sumter United Ministries, Fireside Fund provides financial support to local families that need assistance with heating utilities this fall and winter.
Each year, the fund is dedicated to a late member of Sumter's community, known for his or her giving nature.
This year's Fireside Fund is dedicated to Thomas R. "Tommy" Mims Jr., former sheriff of Sumter County.
Mims was selected because of his record of serving his community and putting others first, character traits shared by the volunteers of Sumter United Ministries.
Mims died at 76 on Dec. 14, 2016, while battling pancreatic cancer.
The man who joined the sheriff's office as the 103rd deputy in 1965 was later elected sheriff in 1988 after 23 years of service. In total, Mims dedicated 40 years to serving and protecting the county of Sumter.
Throughout his time in law enforcement, Mims was seen as a mentor and father figure to the men and women he led.
He would have been happy, said Diane Mims, Tommy's wife, regarding the dedication of this year's fund to her late husband.
She said her family's church regularly participates with charities during the holidays, so it is nice to know that others in the community can be helped this time of year.
"Former Sumter County Sheriff Tommy Mims was a dedicated servant to the residents of Sumter County for many years," said current Sheriff Anthony Dennis. "His legacy will live on for generations to come. There is no one more deserving than Tommy Mims for this honor."
Mark Champagne, executive director of United Ministries, said he anticipates that the organization will have a busy season.
He said United Ministries has received about a dozen requests for kerosene heaters and other requests for utility bill assistance since the beginning of November.
Champagne commended The Sumter Item for spearheading Fireside Fund and connecting with other businesses to assist families in need. Each year, Fireside helps families of Sumter County while also remembering someone who was active in the community.
Fireside Fund - established by The Sumter Item in November 1969 - helps families and individuals pay heating bills and purchase heating supplies. Since its start 47 years ago, Fireside Fund has collected more than $1 million in donations from the community.
Anyone in need of assistance with heating or utility costs can call Sumter United Ministries at (803) 775-0757.
Donations can be mailed to The Sumter Item, P.O. Box 1677, Sumter, SC 29151, or dropped off at the office, 36 W. Liberty St. The last day to send in donations is Monday, Jan. 22.
Names, including groups, should be spelled completely. When making a donation in someone's honor, the names will be printed as given.