Annual Summer of Caring helps Sumter ministry amid COVID-19 need influx


Each summer, The Sumter Item holds its Summer of Caring campaign to fundraise for Sumter United Ministries.

The faith-based emergency services nonprofit provides needs such as clothing, food and shelter but also offers medical, education and housing assistance to both prevent homelessness and help people rebuild their lives.

Clients go through an interview process to determine their need and willingness to work with the ministry to better their situation or financial circumstances. Summer of Caring asks Item readers to donate money that directly and completely goes to the ministry.

Each week, an update provides a list of new donations and an example of their impact from someone at the ministry. This week's update is from Kevin Howell, director of SUM's Crisis Relief Ministry.

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I know someone who has recurring nightmares involving, of all things, horses … horses that chase you!

I rarely have a nightmare, but when I do, I have to shake myself to realize I am dreaming. After months of returning to more "normal" living that allowed vaccinated people to remove masks, families to travel on vacation and weddings to go forward as planned, we are returning to the dreaded nightmare of COVID-19 once again. As the cases are surging and hospitals are reaching capacity, Sumter United Ministries is also interviewing more clients affected by COVID-19 and the delta variant.

At the Crisis Relief Ministry, we have made it a mission to discuss COVID-19 with every client. What do clients understand about this virus and the available vaccines? We have not been asked to have these discussions nor are we compensated to do so, but it is part of our holistic care for our clients in the time we have with them.

Just yesterday, three of the four clients we interviewed contracted COVID-19 and suffered significant symptoms. In some of these cases, they were hospitalized.

For our clients, this diagnosis is not simply a medical issue. Paychecks are lapsing, bills enter delinquent status, and security is threatened as this virus forces its way into their lives. As this surge is taking place, the stimulus checks have come and gone. For families without children, there is no federal financial assistance as in months that have passed.

One man we interviewed has a good job at a manufacturing facility. He goes years without needing us because his job provides a decent salary for him to be independent. However, he lacks benefits. If he misses work, he goes without income. There is no FMLA or paid leave. He does not get "personal" days. If he is out, he is unpaid.

He unknowingly interacted with someone who was later diagnosed with COVID-19. His employer asked him to quarantine. After missing a few days, he returned to work. Days later, symptoms surfaced, and he tested positive for COVID-19. Thankfully, he was able to recover and to return to his former job. However, $2,000 of monthly income was lost.

Again, no benefits were provided to compensate for the loss in income. He made too much money to qualify for other programs. His world was turned upside down quickly.

This story happens repeatedly among our clients and is happening more frequently during this surge of COVID-19 cases.

Your contributions to Summer of Caring allow the Crisis Relief Ministry at SUM to continue to encourage, advise and to alleviate financial hardship for essential needs during this pandemic. We believe our God cares for us, and we maintain hope in times of darkness. Thank you for enabling us to share this hope with others!

New donations as of Aug. 17: None.