WINNSBORO — Sarah Whitener never imagined she would need assistance paying her utility bills, but last week that’s exactly what happened.
Whitener, a 62-year-old grandmother, relies on disability income and $15 worth of food stamps to make ends meet each month. It’s not much, but the Winnsboro resident isn’t the type to let hardship get her down. However, this month she was faced with a gas bill she didn’t have the money to pay, and she began to worry.
Over the years Whitener had read about the Woodyard Fund in the newspaper and knew that it had helped people in similar situations. She decided it was time to call.
The Woodyard Fund helps pay energy bills for Richland, Lexington, Fairfield and Newberry County residents who are in crisis situations. Through the fund, eligible households get vouchers redeemable at businesses that provide heating services. The Salvation Army reimburses the businesses for the voucher amounts. Each applicant is screened to verify need and to ensure no other resources are available.
To Whitener’s relief, she was approved for assistance.
“I started thanking and thanking and thanking God,” she said. “I couldn’t help but shed tears, but they were tears of joy.”
It was a welcome reprieve for a woman who has spent much of her life taking care of others. The sixth of 12 children, she helped care for her younger siblings while their mother was at work. Eventually she had three children of her own, which meant working nights to provide for them after her marriage ended. Things haven’t been easy, but Whitener has an optimistic spirit that isn’t easily shaken. She sees the help she’s gotten from the Woodyard Fund as a step in the right direction.
“It’s going to get better,” she said. “I know it’s going to get better.”
Whitener is immensely grateful for the people who have donated to the fund.
“I just thank God for everything,” she said. “I thank God for the people who donate. When I get out of this situation, I’m going to donate, too.”
How to give help: Donations can be mailed to the Woodyard Fund, c/o The State, P.O. Box 1333, Columbia SC 29202. Make checks payable to the Woodyard Fund. All donations are tax-deductible.
How to get help: Area residents who need assistance with heating bills can call for an appointment at (803) 462-5093 beginning at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday.
The phone line for assistance will be set to receive voice mail messages at 8:30 a.m. each Wednesday. The first 30 people to leave messages will be contacted for appointments for the following week. At other times, the line will provide general information about utility assistance and other programs.