COLUMBIA, SC — Last week, while other Midlands residents were worrying about the impending cold weather, Kimberly Jones had an additional concern: her overdue electricity bill.
The Columbia resident and mother of three is currently unemployed; her job search has stirred dreams of one day going back to school. But in the meantime she supports her family on a fixed income. It hasn’t been easy since her fiance, and father of two of her children, died in 2004.
Recently, Jones got behind on her electricity bill. She paid what she could each month, but as the notices began piling up, she began to worry. The most recent letter gave her a Jan. 7 deadline to pay the past-due amount. Jones’ mother, concerned that her daughter’s electricity might be turned off, clipped an article about the Woodyard Fund from the newspaper in hopes that it could help.
The Woodyard Fund helps pay energy bills for Richland, Lexington, Fairfield and Newberry County residents who are in crisis situations. The fund traces its origins to 1816, when the Ladies Benevolent Society provided firewood and, later, coal to families in need. The society turned management of the charity over to the Salvation Army around the turn of the 20th century.
In 1930, William E. Gonzales, then-editor of The State, began publicizing the fund and those it helped, a tradition the newspaper continues each winter.
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 that no other resources are available.
Jones made an appointment and was relieved to find out that the Woodyard Fund would pay $433 of the $800 she owed. It was enough to keep her power on, and for that she is grateful.
“I was just constantly thanking God because it was a blessing. It really was. I know we couldn’t survive like that in a cold house with no electricity.”
Jones says now she can breathe a little easier as she focuses on paying the rest of the bill. She’s thankful that her mother gave her the Salvation Army’s phone number and says she won’t hesitate to share it with others.
“I would gladly give it to other people who need help. I would gladly pass it on.”
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.