Woodyard Fund: Help with heating 'a blessing'

Rose Johnson had nowhere else to go.

Falling behind on utility bills last winter, she needed help - quickly. The electric company was threatening to cut off her power.

Then Johnson, 55, tried the Salvation Army's Woodyard Fund, which gave her the boost she needed to keep her lights on last February.

"It was a really good feeling that I could get that money," Johnson said. "Praise the Lord; he had a place for me to go to keep my lights on."

Johnson, who uses a walker or cane to get around, said, despite persistent efforts, she could not find a job.

"I think because I walk with a cane, people were afraid to hire me," Johnson said. "I tried to find a job and pay the bills by myself, but no one would hire me."

While she does not remember the exact amount that she received in February, Johnson said that because of her continued lack of income, she might need the money again this winter to warm her home in the Olympia neighborhood.

"I live alone, and I don't have any family around," Johnson said. "I'm getting behind, but the people at The Salvation Army said that they would probably be able to help me again, which is a blessing."

The Woodyard Fund traces its origins to the Ladies Benevolent Society 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.

Because of the generosity she was shown, Johnson feels obligated to give back to the community despite her financial struggles.

"I like to help out at the Meals on Wheels program a lot. I like to help out other people," Johnson said. "It's hard to keep up with bills. But every day I just try to smile and thank the Lord for the help I got."

Related stories from The State in Columbia SC