When Karen Simpson became the legal guardian of her two teenage grandchildren, she desperately needed extra cash to support them and to continue to pay her utility bills.
Simpson decided to take a second job at a Babcock Center - which provides support for women with autism - to make ends meet. But the additional income just wasn't enough.
That's when the 53-year-old remembered the Woodyard Fund.
"I used to work with The Cooperative Ministry, so I had heard about the Woodyard Fund before," Simpson said. "I had gone once but they were short on funding. This time they had some to give me."
Managed by the Salvation Army, the Woodyard Fund helps families in the Midlands who struggle to pay their power bills during the winter.
In October, Simpson received $318 to help pay for two months of late bills. That helped her avoid getting the utilities disconnected in her Forest Acres home.
"I am very thankful for the support I received," Simpson said. "I know the funds are sometimes short because they help a lot of people. I was really just blessed that this time they had some money to give me."
The help she received also helped her meet her expenses.
"The hours at my first job got reduced," Simpson said. "So I needed the second job just to keep up with things like car insurance, gas and things like that."
Simpson feels it is important to raise awareness about the Woodyard Fund.
"I try to tell people that I know that maybe need the assistance about the fund," Simpson said. "It's a blessing that there are agencies that can help people in the area that need it, because I know a lot of people do need it. I wish there was even more money to give to those people."
The Woodyard Fund traces its origins to the Ladies Benevolent Society when in 1816 it provided firewood and later coal to needy families.
In 1930, William E. Gonzales then editor of The State newspaper, began publicizing the fund and those it helped, a tradition the paper continues each winter.
The Woodyard Fund serves residents in Richland, Lexington, Fairfield and Newberry counties and usually runs from late November through March, when temperatures generally are the lowest.