Fireside Fund donations help Sumter grandmother with poorly performing HVAC amid winter weather

Crisis Relief Ministry
Sumter United Ministries

From report cards to the price of a new car, I am not sure of many situations where “average” is the goal.

When our heating season at Sumter United Ministries reaches into February, there are a few trends we see each year. One of the most obvious is electric bills with extremely large balances.

A big factor in these balances is the type of heating system the vast majority of residents have in Sumter: an electric heat pump. Most of the time, these systems are economical, provided that the temperatures are “average” for the season. However, when temperatures dip into the 30s for an extended timeframe, the system must compensate with auxiliary heat.

Auxiliary heat uses far more electricity to heat the home, even in the best operating condition. Many of our clients, however, are operating HVAC systems that are far from optimum condition, lacking critical gas to charge and heat or operating without routine maintenance. So each year, we have clients who call us in February, overwhelmed by the amount of money necessary to keep heating their homes.

This week, a 74-year-old grandmother was completely devastated by the prospect of paying her electric bill.

She raises two grandchildren, a teenager and an adult with special needs. Her income to support the household is just $1,500 a month. Since she still pays rent and is not a homeowner, it simply does not go very far to meet their needs. She supports the household completely on her own, with no forms of public assistance.

Recently, she mistakenly applied for paperless billing and failed to notice when a month changed without getting a bill. When she caught up to her mistake, the amount due, for two months’ usage, was over $1,000.

Her heat pump is not operating properly, and she is using two to three times the electricity of a normal household.

We were able to offer energy conservation tips, encourage her in steps she may take to receive more help and pay a sizable amount on her electric bill.

She threw her arms up in a joyful response when we shared what we could do for her. It was a beautiful moment of gratitude.

One of our Crisis Relief Ministry volunteers turned around and smiled as she left: “Today was a good day!”

As wintry weather, snow and ice and many nights of below-average temperatures continue to cause anxiety for people with poorly performing HVAC systems, your generous contributions to the Fireside Fund are making a difference and providing relief. Thank you!

New donations as of Feb. 8: Daniel & Lucy Owens, in memory of my 4 sisters who passed in 2021: $100; and Council of Garden Clubs of Sumter Inc., $100.