Imagine not having heat until you can save up to $400 for a propane delivery, and you will identify a common plight for some low-income residents in our area, according to Kevin Howell, Crisis Relief Ministry director at Sumter United Ministries.
As temperatures dip with lows in the 20s recently, the burden of being able to afford adequate heat is felt among some Sumter residents. Howell said Fireside Fund donations allow the Crisis Relief Ministry to provide assistance to the ministries' clients who are unable to fully afford their heating needs.
Howell recently shared the story of a female client in her late 50s who initially interviewed for help with her electric bill after she lost her job.
"The lady works in the home health field and cares for patients who can't properly care for themselves," Howell said. "For her, it's hard but fulfilling work. Recently, after a patient no longer needed her, she was without work. When she discovered that she could also receive assistance with her propane delivery, she was delighted."
According to Howell, propane is a common heating element in the Sumter area, and many of the ministry's clients with older homes still have large, submarine-style tanks in their yards.
The difficulty for many low-income families using propane is the large expense for a fill-up, which can range from $300 to $400, Howell said.
"Instead of a regular and consistent monthly bill, a tank needs to be filled as needed," Howell said. "Typically, this expense can account for up to 40 percent of the monthly income for some of our clients."
The ministry was able to pay a significant portion of the lady's propane delivery, and it should last her for several months and through the winter, according to Howell.
"It was a well-deserved offer to a hard-working lady nearing retirement age, who suffered an understandable job-loss crisis," Howell said.
Howell expressed gratitude to the community for supporting the ministry's work.
"This wouldn't be possible without the public's donations to the Fireside Fund," Howell said.
Fireside Fund was established by The Sumter Item in 1969 to help needy families and individuals pay heating bills or buy firewood or heating fuels to 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 Tuesday, Jan. 2:
In memory of Richard M. Ellis from Berthella Ellis, $50; in memory of Keith Gedamke and Gail Mathis, $100; Curry and Mary Dukes, $50; in memory of Raymond McIntosh from Joann McIntosh, $100; in memory of Scott Rumph from Hugh and Hamilton Stoddard, $100; Mt. Zion United Methodist Church, $50; in memory of Helen Bultman from Horace Curtis, $100; in memory of Gus Green from Horace Curtis, $100; in memory of Paul Jennings from Horace Curtis, $100; in memory of Scott Rumph from Horace Curtis, $100; in memory of Ramon Schwartz from Horace Curtis, $100; in honor of Bill C. Wheat, from Emily and Carl Beck, $50; Mary E. Blanchard, M.D., $100; in honor of firefighters active and retired from Bethel Volunteer Fire Department, $250; St. Mark's United Methodist Church Euzelian Class, $100; in memory of our parents from Lee and Marian Denny, $300; in memory of Tommy Mims from Bob Gibbs, $250; in memory of Ingrid Newman from Judy and Walter Newman, $100; in honor of Mary and Ray Barker from Charles Pitts, $25; in memory of Sandra Robinson from Doug Robinson, $100; in memory of Jim McIntosh from Frances McIntosh, $200; in memory of our mothers Annie Cutter and Thelma Waynick from Eddie and Terry Frierson, $100; in memory of Dr. Wendell M. Levi Jr. and Patricia Levi Barnett from Kathryn W. Levi, $300; Summit Development Services, $500; Beuclare Chapter No. 20, Order of the Eastern Star, $140.
Total anonymous this week: $750
Total this week: $4,215
Total last week: $1,945
Total this year to date: $27,191.23
Total last year: $48,601.18
Total since 1969: $1,567,779.47
(Editor's Note: Our weekly Fireside Fund update runs each Tuesday, but this week's story was held until today to wait for giving receipts to come in that were delayed because of the New Year's Day holiday on Monday.)