Annual Sumter Fireside Fund helps woman fix roof leak in cold weather


I tend to live my life more like a sponge than a submarine.

Usually, whatever is going on around me has a way of getting in me, especially when it comes to trouble, stress and worry. "When I am in the storm, the storm is not in me" is a great song lyric but too infrequent an experience.

For all of the difficulty in my life, it often pales in comparison to the lives of the clients we see here at Sumter United Ministries. It is a humbling experience to not envy someone's circumstances while at the same time envying their spirit and attitude.

Just this week, a woman in her late 70s came to the Crisis Relief Ministry for assistance with her electric bill. She had been disconnected a few days earlier. She has an income of just over $1,000 but lives very modestly. Fortunately, she owns her home, but with that comes other hardships. She always struggles to "squeeze" her budget during the month that property taxes are due, which happened to be this time of year.

Unfortunately, she needed an emergency repair in her home at the same time. Her flooring had fallen through in her bathroom as the result of a water line leak, leaving a gaping hole. As the temperatures shifted to colder weather, she had great concern about not being able to stay warm in her home.

It was enough in a short amount of time to overwhelm her, understandably, but you would never know it. She had a delightful perspective and a warm heart. She certainly did not lose sight of the blessings in her life and maintained a confidence that everything would work out. It was inspiring!

I am amazed how often the clients we see inspire us during their visits. It brings great joy to offer assistance to clients in need and know that our neighbors will be warm during these cold months. Thank you for sharing and making a difference!

- Kevin Howell is the director of the Crisis Relief Ministry at Sumter United Ministries.


Each winter since 1969, The Sumter Item has run a fundraiser to collect money from its readers to be donated entirely to Sumter United Ministries.

The faith-based nonprofit provides emergency and life-rebuilding services ranging from food, shelter and clothing to final notice bill pay, access to educational opportunities and a medical clinic. The Sumter Item recognizes and appreciates every ministry their staff and volunteers run, but the Fireside Fund was created to focus on one area that becomes critical for the next few months: heat.

Every penny donated will directly help people who live in Sumter by preventing heating services from being turned off, allowing access to propane or other heating sources and, when enough funding is available and the need is there, funding long-term housing fixes to make homes more efficient.


Each year, The Item's leadership team picks a person who has recently passed away to which the year's campaign will be dedicated. The person honored is someone who made a positive impact in the community, whether through service or philanthropy or business leadership.

Abe Stern checked all those boxes.

He was Sumter's only Holocaust survivor and ran a successful shoe store, Jack's Department Store, for more than 60 years, where he created a space for students to earn money and gain professional mentorship.

Despite his traumatic past in World War II, being sent to a concentration camp and arriving to the United States with $30 in his pocket, he always donned a positive attitude and love for life and Sumter.

He served in the U.S. Air Force at Shaw Air Force Base and became a philanthropic and community supporter of Temple Sinai, Sumter's only synagogue.

He died Nov. 19, 2021. He was 92.

New donations as of Dec. 6: Mary King, in memory of Dr. William King, $100; Major Perry and Mary Register, in honor of their outstanding neighbors and friends: $250; Immanuel Lutheran Church of Sumter, SC - November Mission Gift: $320; Charles Sikora: $150; Col. (Ret.) and Mrs. Donald P. Adee: $200; Susan Goldstein: $10; and Marie B. Burns: $100.