Fireside Fund donations help Sumter’s grandmother with underperforming HVAC in winter

BY KEVIN HOWELL
Crisis Relief Ministry
Sumter United Ministries

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

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

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

Auxiliary heating uses significantly more electricity to heat the home, even under the best operating conditions. However, many of our customers operate HVAC systems that are less than in optimal condition, lack critical gas for charging and heating, or operate without routine maintenance. So every year we have customers who call us in February, overwhelmed by the amount of money needed to continue heating their homes.

This week, a 74-year-old grandmother was completely devastated to pay her electricity bill.

She is raising two grandchildren, a teenager and an adult with special needs. Her income to support the household is only $1,500 per month. Since she’s still paying rent and she’s not a landlord, it just doesn’t go very far to meet their needs. She supports the household entirely on her own, without any form of public assistance.

Recently, she mistakenly requested paperless billing and didn’t notice a month was changing without receiving a bill. When she corrected her mistake, the amount owed, for two months of use, was over $1,000.

Her heat pump is not working properly and she uses two to three times more electricity than a normal household.

We were able to offer her energy saving tips, encourage her in steps she could take to get more help, and pay a significant amount on her electricity bill.

She raised her arms 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 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 worry people with underperforming HVAC systems, your generous contributions to the Fireside Fund are making a difference and bringing relief. Thank you!

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

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