The devastating flood that hit Columbia was more than a year ago, but its effects still linger in the lives of many Midlands residents.
That’s why Salvation Army officials again will be counting on the Midlands’ generosity to help those in need as it launches the annual Woodyard Fund drive. The Woodyard Fund helps residents in need pay their utility bills.
“The cumulative effect of the floods in October 2015 and Hurricane Matthew in October 2016 have presented difficulties and continuous need for our community,” said Melanie Miller, director of program services for The Salvation Army of The Midlands.
“We anticipate more requests than last year based on the requests that are already coming in prior to the program starting,” Miller said.
The Woodyard Fund helps residents in Richland, Lexington, Fairfield and Newberry counties pay for utilities when they’re experiencing financial hardship such as unemployment, reduced work hours, illness, unexpected financial crisis and more.
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.
“We receive requests from the elderly that are low or fixed income, single mother families with children, families facing sudden financial hardship and folks with disabilities,” Miller said.
The fund dates to 1816, when the Ladies Benevolent Society provided firewood and coal to families in need. In 1930, The State newspaper’s editor William E. Gonzales began publicizing the fund. It has been a tradition the newspaper continues every winter. The society turned management of the charity over to the Salvation Army around the turn of the 20th century.
Donors contributed just under $85,000 to last year’s fund, according to the Salvation Army. That allowed 280 families to get utility assistance from December through March.
“The biggest challenge is raising Woodyard donations,” Miller said. “Telling a family that is facing a utility cut-off in one to two days that we are not able to help is heartbreaking for us. We desperately need donations to continue helping families with utility bills. The need is at a critical stage as we prepare for colder temperatures in the coming months.”
The Woodyard Fund 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.