BY KEVIN HOWELL
Crisis Relief Ministry
Sumter United Ministries
With the premature spring temperatures last week, I dove into some much-needed yard work.
It was a clear reminder to me of all the work that needed to be done weeks ago but got overlooked. The challenges of the season were bearing fruit and were made more difficult by my expectation. A gloriously sunny Saturday did not diminish the hard work ahead.
You might be tempted to think that the warmer temperatures at the end of February have reduced the need around us for help with heating. However, many of our Crisis Relief Ministry clients still struggle to adequately heat their homes or ensure their heating bills are paid by the day.
As the season draws to a close, expenses that have been overlooked by extensions, installment plans, loans and other means are now reaching difficult deadlines for many of our customers. After exhausting the resources and options available to them throughout the winter, they are now reaching a point where they have nowhere to turn.
A couple in their 80s visited this week. The husband began to show signs of dementia and his wife, for the first time in their marriage, began to manage the finances.
She was shocked to find out how close expenses and income are and how little slack there is in their budget.
As they continue to stretch their income to cover food, gas and heating costs, the reality of being short this month has greeted them like an unwanted stranger. After a propane bill for over $700 arrived in the mail, they turned to us for help, and we were grateful for the help.
We also had a 101 year old widow visit this week who needed propane help.
Propane costs were up 30% this season, and the pressure on his $1,000-a-month income was too much to compensate for without help.
We were grateful that she turned to us and it was a great joy to help her.
Another gentleman, aged 40, came to see us following the disconnection of his natural gas account. He was recently released from prison but was struggling to clear his criminal record and start a new life. His wife and father both died recently and he was overcome with grief. His struggles were real and deep. Several overdue bills he managed to float over the course of a few months resulted in a disconnect.
He was thrilled that we could offer hope in a grim situation.
Despite the pleasant days we have on occasion, the temperatures drop during the night to remind us that warmth is always necessary. With the inflated costs of necessities we have all felt, it has been a long and difficult season for our most struggling neighbors. Sumter United Ministries appreciates all donations to the Fireside Fund and the opportunity to serve and provide relief.
The last weeks of the season require special gifts to accompany us until the end. As you give, know that these resources are used in ways that honor the feeling behind them. Thank you!
New donations as of March 1: Roger Williams, $200; Margie Lawrence, $1,000; and Charles White, $150.