Sumter Item's Fireside Fund helps Rembert woman keep home heated while she plans to move into senior home


When income is not enough and home upkeep becomes overwhelming, one home repair problem can compound with others to create a dire situation. Luckily, the generosity of others can help reverse an unwanted and even dangerous path.

A client who recently visited Sumter United Ministries is an example of the direct assistance provided through The Sumter Item's annual Fireside Fund. Each year, money donated by Item readers is given in its entirety to the faith-based emergency services nonprofit. In the winter months, the fundraiser is meant to help those in need with heating help, which, depending on how much is donated, can include anything from bill pay and kerosene purchases to long-term home repair.

Kevin Howell, director of the Crisis Relief Ministry at SUM, described the situation of an older, disabled woman who lives alone in Rembert.

Her old family home is falling into disrepair, and her meager disability income of less than $1,000 a month is not enough to survive on and make the fixes.

"A few years ago, her furnace stopped working, and she no longer had her main heat source," Howell said. "As the cold weather has begun to arrive, she had the HVAC system evaluated."

She couldn't even really afford the service call, but her plight only deepened when she was given a $2,800 estimate to replace the system.

"She took more money from her check to buy a kerosene heater from a local thrift store. Later that week, her doctor strictly advised against using kerosene for heat. She is asthmatic and diabetic. Only a short time later, a leak developed under her home, and she had to call a plumber," Howell said.

After only a few days, nearly half of her monthly income was spent.

"She no longer had money for her electric bill, which she now depended on to heat her home with electric heaters. The desperation on her face was apparent," Howell said. "Before I could advise her, she told me the exact same words I was prepared to share: 'I need to move out of this place and get into a senior income-based apartment.'

"Many times, people struggle to leave behind family properties that have not been maintained over time. In this client's case, the upkeep was overwhelming. She no longer had the money to repair it. More importantly, she was having a crisis in heating her home. We were able to prevent her electricity from being disconnected so that she can continue to heat her home while sorting through her affairs to move."

Donations as of Tuesday, Nov. 24: East Pearl Properties LLC, $250; Sue and Chuck Fienning, in honor of Kathy and Mayor Joe McElveen, $250; and Charlie Pitts, in honor of Dr. Jessica Allinger, $25.