Woodyard Fund: ‘A burden was lifted off my shoulders’

rfriedman@thestate.comFebruary 23, 2014 

— On top of raising two teenagers, Tonya Smith also is faced with the challenge of supporting her family on a limited income.

The Columbia resident has been unemployed since 2011 because of a recurring medical issue that has required multiple surgeries. She says she’s in the process of applying for disability benefits, but until that’s complete, each bill is a reason to worry.

Things came to a head in late January when Smith needed to pay her rent and an overdue electricity bill. With two children to think about, she knew she had to figure something out quickly.

“I had to get some assistance because, if not, I was going to be evicted,” she said.

Smith made an appointment with the Salvation Army to talk about the Woodyard Fund.

The Woodyard Fund helps pay energy bills for Richland, Lexington, Fairfield and Newberry County residents who are in crisis situations. Now managed by the Salvation Army, the fund traces its origins to 1816, when the Ladies Benevolent Society provided firewood and, later, coal to families in need. It usually runs from late November through mid March, when temperatures generally are the coldest. The State has publicized the fund each winter since 1930.

Smith’s bill was nearly $500; after meeting with a caseworker, she was told the Woodyard Fund would pay $400 toward it.

She said she was able to breathe easier after learning such a large portion of her bill would be taken care of.

“I felt relief, like a burden was lifted off my shoulders.”

Smith knows her struggles are far from over, but she says she’s appreciative of the assistance the Woodyard Fund was able to provide. She said the program is an important resource for parents like her who are facing financial hardship.

“Some people don’t really have family they can depend on,” Smith said. “They’re by themselves trying to take care of their children.”

Woodyard Fund

How to give help : Mail donations 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.

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