Sumter United Ministries helps retired couple keep their heat on through donations

BY BRUCE MILLS
bruce@theitem.com
Posted 1/30/18

The continued support of donations to The Fireside Fund enables the Crisis Relief Ministry of Sumter United Ministries to assist with emergency heat requests, according to Director Kevin Howell.

Howell described how an older couple in their 70s …

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Sumter United Ministries helps retired couple keep their heat on through donations

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The continued support of donations to The Fireside Fund enables the Crisis Relief Ministry of Sumter United Ministries to assist with emergency heat requests, according to Director Kevin Howell.

Howell described how an older couple in their 70s from Wedgefield recently visited the ministry with an urgent plea for help. The couple receives a total of about $2,000 per month in Social Security and retirement pensions, Howell said.

"They are still paying a mortgage on their home, and they receive no other form of assistance," Howell said. "By the time they buy groceries and pay the house payment, half of their income has been spent."

For their convenience, a local energy company had established an equal payment plan to help them manage their propane expense. But when the couple failed to honor the plan agreement, the entire balance became due, Howell said.

"Suddenly, the couple owed a balance of more than $900 to continue having heat for the winter," Howell said. "There was simply no way this couple could make that payment."

According to Howell, the ministry was able to assist with a large sum of the balance, and a voucher was issued to the couple to ensure the propone account was up to date.

"We were also able to provide food and referrals to resources for less-expensive housing and energy assistance," Howell said. "It's an easy decision to assist couples like this - older couples who have no other options to increase their income and struggle to keep up."

According to Howell, when temperatures plummet and energy bills rise, there are seniors like this couple living all around us who feel the strain of increasing expenses for a necessity as basic as heat.

"Your donations make a difference," Howell said. "Thank you for giving!"

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 Friday, Jan. 26:

Ruth Sunday School Class from Bethel Baptist Church, $50; Larry and Maryanne Kee, $25; Bethel United Methodist Church, $300; in honor of Jennifer and Rob Settle from Charlie Pitts $25; in memory of Flod Shaw, Pap Propst and our veterans from Paul and Chris Herrmann, $200; Farrell Jones Sunday School Class of Crosspoint Baptist Church, $100; Women on Mission from Southside Baptist Church, $100; in memory of James C. Peters Sr. from Sue and Chuck Fienning, $250; Jennie Alderman Bible Study Group of Crosspoint Baptist Church, $50; in memory of Barbara McGinnis from Anna and John Anderson, $100; in honor of Tommy Mims from the lawyers and staff at the Office of the Solicitor, $300.

Total anonymous: $100

Total this week: $1,600

Total this year: $34,459.01

Total last year: $48,601.18

Total since 1969: $1,575,047.25