An earlier than usual cold snap has provided a sobering reminder of the challenges looming for many Midlands families as they try to stay warm this winter.
Salvation Army officials again will be counting on the community’s generosity to help those families as it launches the annual Woodyard Fund drive.
The fund helps pay energy bills for Richland, Lexington, Fairfield and Newberry County residents who are in crisis situations. And significant needs are anticipated again this year as many continue to struggle because of a job loss or other financial strain.
Donors contributed $125,667 to last year’s fund, which allowed the Salvation Army to provide utility assistance to 359 families from December through March. The average payment was about $350.
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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 newspaper, began publicizing the fund and those it helped, a tradition the newspaper continues each winter.
“The Woodyard Fund could not have continued over the last 84 years without the generous support of our community reaching out to their neighbors and providing a helping hand out of troubling situations,” said Maj. Roger Coulson, regional coordinator/corps officer for the Salvation Army of the Midlands.
Coulson said contributions to the fund have enabled the agency to provide emergency relief to many who have found themselves facing unforeseen circumstances.
Through the Woodyard 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.
Coulson said the fund remains a virtual lifeline for many struggling families. He praised the community for its continued support of the fund and those it helps.
“Thank you to the people of the Midlands for the support provided to The Salvation Army through the Woodyard Fund that has allowed us to help our neighbors stay warm through the winter months,” he said.
The Woodyard Fund usually runs from late November through mid-March.