Sumter Item's Fireside Fund helps woman increase propane access efficiency

BY KAYLA ROBINS
kayla@theitem.com
Posted 3/13/19

Any help from a generous neighbor or philanthropic stranger can positively impact the life of someone in need, but assistance provided to many seniors, disabled and working poor clients at Sumter United Ministries is more than they expect.

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Sumter Item's Fireside Fund helps woman increase propane access efficiency

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Any help from a generous neighbor or philanthropic stranger can positively impact the life of someone in need, but assistance provided to many seniors, disabled and working poor clients at Sumter United Ministries is more than they expect.

The Sumter Item is nearing the final few weeks of its Fireside Fund, a monetary donation drive we run during the year's cold months to benefit the ministry's life-changing heating assistance. The fundraiser is named in honor of a different late member of the community each year who represented a giving spirit and light on those around him or her. This year's Fireside Fund is in memory of Roger Ackerman.

A 75-year-old Rembert woman recently visited the Crisis Relief Ministry, the portion of SUM that provides assistance for heating bills and access with money from the fund, because someone told her she could be given food, said Kevin Howell, director of the relief ministry.

"She lives alone in a country home on $1,000 a month total income. There was no money left once she paid all of her expenses," Howell said. "She did not have any unnecessary expenses, and she owned her home and car debt-free. Yet, she was barely getting by month to month."

The woman told the ministry she uses propane heat, but Howell said the method she uses to secure it was "shocking."

"Every two to three days, she would get a neighbor to take a 25-pound propane tank to be filled. This is the same size found on most patio grills," he said. "Most propane tanks for home heating are 250 pounds, by comparison."

She has heaters in her home and a line outside where she would connect it. In a month like January, this routine would be repeated 10-12 times. She said she felt a larger tank was "out of reach for her" after an area propane provider with whom she had a dispute years ago did not credit her for a payment she made to the company delivery driver.

"She felt she had no other options. The client was able to pay for a new company for the tank set fee. Since she already had the lines available to her home, it was an easy solution. The Crisis Relief Ministry provided a tank fill-up for the client that should provide enough propane until the weather completely changes. It was a worthy case," Howell said.

He said the woman never asked for help. She never thought her situation was dire or inconvenient. She never complained about her circumstances yet rejoiced over the gift she received from her Sumter neighbors.

Donations received by Monday, March 11, 2019:

Hubert and Jackie Osteen, in honor of Charles McCreight, $500; St. John United Methodist Friendship Circle January Mission, $50; from a grateful friend, in honor of Martha and Don Kellum, $300; and Bethel Volunteer Fire Department, in honor of all firefighters, $250.