Sumter Fireside Fund surprises woman with new 100-gallon propane tank after $12 request


I hope I am never held accountable for the conveniences of our world that I take for granted.

On this chilly morning, my heat kicked on at my preferred setting, and the gas fireplace roared to life to knock off the cool air without me giving it one thought. Now, imagine lugging propane tanks to a fill station every three days or else not having a heat source to overcome the cold.

At the Crisis Relief Ministry, we offer assistance with propane to struggling neighbors in need. Many of those clients have large "submarine" tanks in their yards, and the propane is delivered. Other clients, however, use portable tanks that hook up from the outside of the house and provide fuel to in-wall heaters and fireplaces.

This week, a client requested help with propane. She uses a 20-pound tank, the most popular size for patio grills, and takes it to be filled every three days in the winter.

Imagining the hassle of carrying the heavy tank every few days just to have heat made me instantly grateful for all that I take for granted. To further humble us, she came to us for help with what equates to about a $12 charge for fill-up.

This widow lives out in Lynchburg. She is a young senior in her early 60s. Her husband died nearly two years ago.

Two years before he died, she quit working to care for him. She is still gripped by grief and is struggling to "reset," struggling to embrace re-entering the workforce just a few years before retirement. She lives on the Social Security she receives on her husband's behalf, a modest income. She is barely making ends meet.

We counseled her by encouraging her to move on to part-time work. Nearly all of her earned income will be surplus and will make life easier for her. Though she misses her husband, she seemed ready to move forward.

Her home needs repairs, among them a central HVAC unit that no longer works. She has a propane fireplace and heats the entire home with it, admiring the wood encasement and mantle her husband built before he died. She carries her tank to get propane two to three times a week and never once complained about it.

Sumter United Ministries operates with great freedom since our resources are primarily donations with no rules and requirements to follow. When we met this simple lady who asked for $12 in assistance, it became obvious that God would have us do better. It was time to surprise her.

After a phone call and some research, a 100-gallon propane tank is being installed and will be filled, thanks to the donations we received from the Fireside Fund.

How does that compare? Based on her current usage, it will last her eight to 10 weeks of thought-free heat in stark contrast to what she now experiences. She was so grateful.

What a beautiful story this close to Christmas. I also do not want to take our donors for granted. Thank you for sharing your blessings during the holidays with those in need by contributing to the Fireside Fund. It makes a difference!

New donations as of Dec. 14: Charlie Pitts, in honor of Roland Pitts, $25; Linda Day, $50; Women of Fraser Church, $50; Faith Circle Goodwill Presbyterian Church, donor, $100; Joan & Frank Doyle, in memory of Tracy Millar and in honor of Dee & Drue Spigner, $200; Kathryn Levi, in memory of Hubert D. Osteen Jr. and Dr. Mary Elizabeth Blanchard, $300; Sue and Chuck Fienning, in memory of Henry C. Fienning, $500; First Presbyterian Church / Presbyterian Women, $200; Phil and Barbara Finley, $100; Adult Three Sunday School Class of Shaw Heights Baptist Church, $100; Boyle Bible Class Trinity United Methodist Church, $100; Berthella S. Ellis, in loving memory of Richard M. Ellis, $100; and Guy and Karen Chapura, $100