Sumter United Ministries seeking help from community to meet seniors' needs amid rising cost of living


Many Sumterites have to make a little go a long way.

On the county level, around 20% live in poverty, according to Census data, and about 18% of the county's total population are senior citizens.

Sumter United Ministries, which helps locals with crisis relief, home repair, homelessness, education assistance and medical services, has been able to help vulnerable people in the area, senior citizens included, amid the rising cost of living.

In order to continue helping locals, however, SUM is looking for donations, both monetary and food as well as other necessities such as clothes, and they're also seeking volunteers.

Kevin Howell, director of crisis relief for SUM, said a large portion of locals that come in needing help are senior citizens.

"They're squeezed," he said. "Their income is not covering the basic necessities, and they often have to make choices to do without some groceries or you skip an electric bill, you know, stuff like that because there's just not enough to cover even just the basic stuff."

Grocery prices have been steadily increasing since the start of the pandemic and have not stopped, Anna Helhoski from Nerd Wallet reported. And there has been a 4.3% increase in grocery prices from August 2022 to August 2023.

This, according to Helhoski, is because of multiple factors including inflation, labor costs, the supply chain and the war in Ukraine.

And neither food stamps nor Social Security income are deep enough to fully cover many senior citizens' needs.

"You would hope in your seventies, you own your home, but if you go apply for assistance, sometimes owning your home works against you because they subtract that from your living expenses," Howell said.

Plus, many of them can't go out and get a part-time job like some - certainly not all - from less-vulnerable populations can, according to Howell, so there's multiple factors working against senior citizens in particular.

More information on donations and volunteering can be found by visiting or calling (803) 775-0757.