October’s destructive floods in the Columbia area – and the financial hardships left in its wake – are sure to challenge many Midlands families as they try to stay warm this winter.
Salvation Army officials once again will be counting on the community’s generosity to help those in need as it launches the annual Woodyard Fund drive.
The Woodyard Fund assists those experiencing unemployment, reduced hours, unexpected financial crisis and limited incomes in previous years.
And this year, the Oct. 4 flood that devastated the Midlands will cause an increase in demand.
“This year, more families will be in need because the October flood placed financial hardship on so many who had very little even before the disaster,” Maj. Roger Coulson, regional coordinator at The Salvation Army of the Midlands, said last week.
The Woodyard Fund helps pay energy bills for Richland, Lexington, Fairfield and Newberry County residents who are in crisis situations.
Donors contributed $110,539.83 to last year’s fund, according to the Salvation Army. That allowed 359 families to get utility assistance from December through March. The average payment was about $350, according to the Salvation Army.
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.
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.
“Power is not only heat,” Coulson said in a statement. “It affects other parts of the household like refrigeration, cooking and lights, all of which can be taken for granted until a person is left without one or more of them. Having utilities disconnected during the winter is often the first step in a family becoming homeless.”
The Woodyard Fund usually runs from late November through mid-March.
How to give help
Donations can be mailed to the Woodyard Fund, c/o The Salvation Army of the Midlands, P.O. Box 2786, 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 (803) 462-5093 for more information or to make an appointment for assistance.