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Fund helps Sumter woman in outdoor landscaping survive slow winter

BY KAYLA GREEN
kayla@theitem.com
Posted 1/15/20

Life sometimes gives you unexpected sour grapes, but having generous strangers in your community can help turn a bad situation around.

As The Sumter Item's annual Fireside Fund continues collecting money for those in need of heating help via …

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Fund helps Sumter woman in outdoor landscaping survive slow winter

Posted

Life sometimes gives you unexpected sour grapes, but having generous strangers in your community can help turn a bad situation around.

As The Sumter Item's annual Fireside Fund continues collecting money for those in need of heating help via Sumter United Ministries, some of the recipients of the faith-based nonprofit's services are asking for help for the first time.

The fundraiser, which The Sumter Item has been holding since 1969, is named in honor of a different late member of the community who made a positive impact on Sumter. This year, it is in memory of Bill Painter, a longtime educator and public servant.

Every penny of what is donated is given to SUM. Recently, thousands of those pennies went to a single woman in her late 40s who asked for help with a final notice on her electric bill.

The woman works full-time in seasonal landscaping and property management for government properties, but she doesn't earn an income for the coldest months of the year, according to Kevin Howell, Crisis Relief Ministry director.

She used to receive a stipend to compensate for the weeks of unemployment, but that was recently relinquished, Howell said.

"Her energy usage was a tremendous point of concern. She averages $350 a month in heating expenses during winter months. When we questioned her about the usage, she described her living conditions," he said.

The woman had inherited two "very old" mobile homes that she joined together and converted into one property. She has holes in her flooring and a roof that leaks. She does not have a central HVAC system but uses window heating units.

She was desperate for help.

"Thanks for the donations of The Fireside Fund, we were able to provide hundreds of dollars in financial assistance to completely pay off her final notice," Howell said.

SUM staff was able to encourage her in the outdoor profession that she loves while offering alternatives to offset the downtime and still maintain income. They were also able to provide food for her because they didn't have to spend all their funding on heating with the extra help from the Fireside Fund.

Donations received as of Monday, Jan. 13: Zoar FCL (Homemakers) Club, $25; Maureen Maclin, in honor of James (Jim) Maclin, $100; Crosswell Baptist Church Women's Bible Study Group, $50; Charlie Pitts, in honor of Dr. Jessica Allinger, $25; Bethel Volunteer Fire Department, in honor of all firefighters, $250; and Nu Master Chapter of Beta Sigma Phi, $25.