COLUMBIA, SC — For most parents, the arrival of a new baby is a reason to celebrate. But for Tabitha Pollock, it’s also a reason to worry. That’s because maternity leave means at least six weeks without pay.
The Columbia resident works as a certified nursing assistant in addition to her job with a cell phone company. She gave birth to a baby boy Dec. 12. Throughout her pregnancy, she set aside money to support herself, her newborn and her 11-year-old daughter during her time off from work.
Unfortunately, her savings weren’t enough.
“I exhausted all my money when I was out,” said Pollock. “I got behind on my bills.”
Her co-workers pitched in with gifts of diapers and other baby supplies, but she didn’t know where to turn for help with her electricity bill. When someone suggested the Woodyard Fund, she decided to give it a try.
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.
Pollock left a message with the Salvation Army on the morning of Jan. 15. She said a prayer after hanging up the phone but says she didn’t expect to get a call back.
Thirty minutes later, her phone rang.
“I was just so thankful,” she said. “I got teary-eyed.”
She thought the fund might help with a portion of the bill, but when a representative told her it would take care of the entire $320, Pollock was overwhelmed .
“I was bawling like a baby. All I could do was thank God and smile. Lord knows I needed that.”
Pollock still has some catching up to do. Her water bill is late, and she’s worried about losing her car. But she says she’s grateful that her newborn son can sleep in a warm house.
“You’ve got people who really need it, like me. I think it’s wonderful that they give help to working-class people. Everybody falls short sometimes.”
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.