Fireside Fund helps single mom with electricity bill when flu hits household, she misses 2 weeks of work


"I am not feeling great."

With a glazed look in his eyes, my 9-year-old son just gave me the first indication that the plans for my week were getting a major overhaul. For the next three days, I missed work while caring for my ill son.

It's not just in my home, of course. It is flu season, too, not to mention a recent surge in a COVID-19 variant that has visits to clinics and hospitals spiking in number. It is not lost in my thoughts that I have personal leave available to me. I am thankful that I could care for my son and be paid while I was out of work. Among the clients we see at Sumter United Ministries, that is usually not the case. Missed work translates into missed wages or, sometimes, losing a job. Families are often caught in the dilemma of caring for their family and having money to ensure they have the necessities their care requires.

Recently, a single mother visited the ministry with just such a circumstance. She has two children of elementary age, and she works 30-40 hours a week. She has a good income, but it disqualifies her from some benefits like SNAP or being eligible for housing assistance. She bears the full responsibility of her living expenses along with child support from the father.

The flu hit her household, and it stubbornly clung to them until a total of two weeks passed, all that time equating to missed work.

On an average month, she has enough and a little left over. This time, there was no paycheck coming, and the order to disconnect her electricity was "on the truck."

She stepped out of the cold morning air into a warm reception at the Crisis Relief Ministry, where we understood the challenges she faced, being self-reliant but not having enough to overcome adversity when it strikes. We were able to prevent disconnection and ensure she has heat in her home as she returns to normal circumstances.

I am aware of the blessings I have, and I am sure you give thought to the same. Giving often occurs when, in response to what we have, we share with those who have not. Often, it is simply a hand up in a tough pinch that keeps well-meaning families moving forward. Your donations matter, and we are grateful for your support of the Fireside Fund. Thank you!

- 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.

New donations as of Jan. 24: Carl Perry, in honor of homeless veterans, $100; Dorothy Cheagle, $100; J.J. Britton, in memory of my wife, Connie Britton, $200; Nu Master Chapter of Beta Sigma Phi, $25; Carolyn Green, $100; Co-ed Adult Sunday School Class of Shaw Heights Baptist Church, $100; and Wilson D. McDuffie, $100. Correction from Jan. 17 listing: Monica Gober, in loving memory of Paul Gober, $100.

Anonymous: $250

Total this week: $975

Total this year: $25,865.68

Total last year: $43,946.76

Total since 1969: $1,793,726.54