Fireside Fund helps Sumter homeowner get to root of problem

BY BRUCE MILLS
bruce@theitem.com
Posted 12/19/17

The number of clients seeking assistance for heat continues to be high at Sumter United Ministries' Crisis Relief Ministry, according to director Kevin Howell.

Howell explained it's incredible to see how many clients come to United Ministries …

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Fireside Fund helps Sumter homeowner get to root of problem

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The number of clients seeking assistance for heat continues to be high at Sumter United Ministries' Crisis Relief Ministry, according to director Kevin Howell.

Howell explained it's incredible to see how many clients come to United Ministries with no idea of exactly what they might need help with, but the desperation of low temperatures at night causes a sense of panic in them to ensure they will have heat for their homes.

Howell shared the story of a new homeowner who recently interviewed at the ministry, and she was perplexed by her HVAC unit. The unit worked during the summer, but she couldn't get the heat to operate now, according to Howell. When she came into the ministry, she was initially assisted by the Crisis Relief Ministry for a final notice on her electric bill because she was using electric floor heaters and her oven to keep warm because the heat pump wasn't generating heat.

"After a series of questions, we determined she has a split system: a heat pump for air conditioning but a natural gas furnace for heat," Howell said. "She didn't realize that there were two separate units. We further diagnosed and evaluated some of the problems she had, and she's now on the path to having her home properly heated by the furnace."

According to Howell, the interview allowed the ministry to identify the real problem for this homeowner so that she will have adequate heating for her family throughout the winter.

"For this homeowner, who is disabled with two teenage kids and a fixed income, it became an invaluable source of help," Howell said.

According to Howell, clients often come in with malfunctioning units and need help. "Although we cannot provide HVAC replacement or repair, we're prepared to assist with alternate heat sources, such as kerosene or electric floor heaters," Howell said. "When the client is unsure what to do, we strive to be a calm - yet creative - voice in finding solutions, like with this homeowner."

Howell said the generous donations that people make to the Fireside Fund allow the ministry to be thorough in its needs evaluations and have the resources to fully fund assistance. He thanked people for their generosity.

Fireside Fund was established by The Sumter Item in 1969 to help needy families and individuals pay heating bills, buy firewood or heating fuels and stay warm during the winter months. Since its founding, Fireside Fund has brought in more than $1.5 million in donations from generous readers.

This winter's Fireside Fund is dedicated to the memory of former Sumter County Sheriff Tommy Mims, who died in December 2016.

Mims joined the sheriff's office as a deputy in 1965, and after 23 years of service, he was elected sheriff in 1988. Mims served as sheriff for 16 years until his retirement in 2004.

Throughout his tenure in law enforcement, Mims was seen as a mentor and father figure to the men and women he led. He was also considered a dedicated public servant by many Sumterites.

Donations can be mailed to The Sumter Item, P.O. Box 1677, Sumter, SC 29151, or dropped off at 36 W. Liberty St.

Anyone in need of assistance with heating costs may call Sumter United Ministries at (803) 775-0757.

Donations ending the week of Monday, Dec. 18:

Robert and Clara Fisette, $2,000; St. Paul AME Church, $50; Augustus and Sarah Williams, $25; in memory of Wayne McElveen from Gary and Virginia Cox, $25; in memory of Bettie Jackson from the Cox family, $25; in honor of Cathie Pitts from Charlie Pitts, $25; in memory of Mike Alexander from Anita Alexander, $50; Charles Sikora, $100; in memory of Alan Wooten from the Church of Ascension Children's Sunday School, $300; Carolyn Brogdon and Jane Best, $200; in memory of Tommy Mims from Dan and Dotty Lyles, $300; Men's Sunday School Class of Southside Baptist Church, $50; Women of Fraser Church, $50; in memory of Tom Olsen from Jackie Olsen, $50; Wayne and Linda Hogon, $100; in memory of Beth Foxworth from Alice Foxworth, $20; Bush and Nancy Hanson, $50; in memory of Mr. and Mrs. Harold Moses from Sharonlyn Moses-Polk, $50; The Unity Class of Crosswell Baptist Church, $100; in memory of Brother Roger Shipley from Phillip Shipley, $50; Janette Sisk, $50; in honor of Fair Edmunds from The Council of Garden Clubs of Sumter Inc., $100; in memory of Tammye and Britton Cox from Robert F. and Tracy Marye, $500; Warren K. and Nancy S. Smith, $100; in memory of Bill Noonan, from Mrs. William Noonan, $100; Judge and Mrs. Howard P. King, $50; in memory of Tommy Mims from The Jill Harvell Missions Group of First Baptist Church, $460; in memory of Scott W. Rumph Jr. by James and Marsha Jones, $1,000.

In last week's Fireside Fund piece, one donation inadvertently read: In memory of Marie Burns, $100. It should have read: In memory of David Burns from Marie Burns, $100.

Total anonymous this week: $175

Total this week: $6,155

Total this year to date: $21,031.23

Total last year: $48,601.18

Total since 1969: $1,561,620.47