Summer of Caring helps single Sumter parents further opportunities with education


Have you ever been completely blindsided? Have you ever had something happen to you that was so unexpected that it took you for a loop? Of course you have. We all have.

Sometimes these events can be awesome, like being offered an unexpected bonus at work or having a beloved relative surprise you with a visit.

Most of the time, these events are not welcomed, however. From a flat tire to having your debit card hacked, receiving a cancer diagnosis or being laid off from your job, these events can wreak havoc on our lives. They are life's road blocks.

Now imagine being a single parent holding down a job and going to school full time trying to create a better life for your family. The students in the Education Assistance Ministry program here at Sumter United Ministries are doing exactly that every day. We at the EAM try to help our students navigate life's road blocks as they pursue their dreams of higher education.

Most recently, one of our students, Ms. R, was faced with a huge road block. The single mother of two lost her job of five years after injuries received in a car accident. She was no longer able to perform her job requirements as a nursing assistant at a local assisted living facility.

Undeterred, Ms. R then enrolled and was accepted into a medical coding certification program. Using her COVID-19 stimulus money, she paid the tuition fees. After starting the classes, she realized she would be able to better succeed if she had the optional textbook. At $75, the book was simply beyond her reach financially. Fortunately, Ms. R became aware of the EAM program. She applied, was accepted and soon had the textbook she needed as well as an ink cartridge for her printer and school supplies. She was very grateful that the program was able to help navigate her life's road block. Soon she will finish her classes, receive her certification and be able to pursue better employment opportunities that will enable her and her family to transition off government assistance and return to the self-sufficient person she was before the car accident.

Sumter United Ministries' Education Assistance Ministry is a program designed to provide Sumter County single parents with the resources and relationships needed to further their post-secondary degree or certification education. The EAM does not provide tuition assistance. The assistance provided to students varies on a case-by-case basis and is precipitated by the needs of the individual student. Students in the EAM program could possibly receive assistance with tutoring, books, school supplies, child care, internet access, transportation, clothing and food, among other things. Also included is one-on-one support and guidance from an EAM coach.

All of the assistance we are able to provide the students in the EAM program is made possible by the generous donations made to the ministry by people like you.

Of course, people can't pursue a post-secondary education if they haven't first completed their K-12 schooling. Every year, SUM helps our local students in achieving this goal by providing much-needed school supplies through our Gear Up for Learning program. SUM accepts donations of school supplies from local churches, businesses, civic groups and individuals. These school supplies are then distributed to each public school in Sumter County. Students and/or parents simply need to go to their school's guidance counselor to request and receive the school supplies they need to start the new school year.

Editor's note: Heather Collins is the Education Assistance Ministry administrator, Crisis Relief Client Services supervisor and grant coordinator for Sumter United Ministries.

New donations as of Aug. 3: Charlie Pitts, in honor of Mary Baker, $25; Julian Hill, $100; and Bobby Sigley, in loving memory of Yvonne Sigley, $10.