Fireside Fund heats senior Sumter woman's home after appliance woes break budget


What do you do when you are 78 years old, live alone on a modest fixed Social Security income and find yourself having to replace your freezer that broke right before Christmas, pay for repairs to your dangerously thin and weak floor and pay other bills and then realize you have no money left to pay the gas company for the natural gas you use to keep warm?

This is exactly the situation that one of our clients - we'll call her Ms. H. - found herself in a little more than a week ago.

Inflation and supply issues have driven up the costs of just about everything lately, and kerosene, propane, gasoline and natural gas have all hit record highs in the past few years. Natural gas has increased by a whopping 200% in the past five years. Many things have influenced this, including the increase in natural gas exports, the soaring prices in Europe and the strong demand for natural gas.

For clients like Ms. H., who have limited resources and are lacking financial support from family, the reality is that heating their homes - already a struggle each winter - may not be possible.

The additional funding we receive at Sumter United Ministries from the Fireside Fund allowed us to assist Ms. H. with 150 gallons of LP gas. She will be warm during any cold snaps we are sure to see in the next two months. It is heartening to be able to assist clients with heating needs that we might not have been able to address otherwise. We are so grateful to the Sumter community for faithfully supporting the Fireside Fund and grateful to God for moving the hearts of Sumter residents to do so.


Each winter since 1969, The Sumter Item has run a fundraiser to collect money from its readers to be donated entirely to Sumter United Ministries.

The faith-based nonprofit provides emergency and life-rebuilding services ranging from food, shelter and clothing to final-notice bill pay, access to educational opportunities and a medical clinic.

The Sumter Item recognizes and appreciates every ministry their staff and volunteers run, but the Fireside Fund was created to focus on one area that becomes critical for the next few months: heat.

Every penny donated will directly help people who live in Sumter by preventing heating services from being turned off, allowing access to propane or other heating sources and, when enough funding is available and the need is there, funding long-term housing fixes to make homes more efficient.


Each year, The Item's leadership team picks a person who has recently passed away to which the year's campaign will be dedicated. The person honored is someone who made a positive impact in the community, whether through service or philanthropy or business leadership.

Abe Stern checked all those boxes.

He was Sumter's only Holocaust survivor and ran a successful shoe store, Jack's Department Store, for more than 60 years, where he created a space for students to earn money and gain professional mentorship.

Despite his traumatic past in World War II, being sent to a concentration camp and arriving to the United States with $30 in his pocket, he always donned a positive attitude and love for life and Sumter.

He served in the U.S. Air Force at Shaw Air Force Base and became a philanthropic and community supporter of Temple Sinai, Sumter's only synagogue.

- Diane Garrick is the assistant director of the Crisis Relief Ministry at Sumter United Ministries.

New donations as of Jan. 31: First Presbyterian Church / Presbyterian Women, $100; Bob and Liz Costello, in memory of Eric Desautel, $100; Southside Baptist Church, $200; E.A. Finney, III, in memory of my friend, William L. Byrd who passed away in 2022, $287.20; and William Q. Brunson, $200.