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Woodyard Fund: Aid keeps laid-off worker's power on

As temperatures dipped below freezing this month, Vanessa Pryor was facing a cold Christmas season inside her concrete block apartment off Forest Drive.

Laid off from her assembly line job at McEntire Produce in August, Pryor, 58, has been struggling to pay her electric bill.

She got help from several churches, but they were able to pay only a portion of her bill. So she kept falling deeper into debt with the electric company.

Two months behind on her bill and with a cutoff notice in hand, Pryor stood outside the doors of the Salvation Army earlier this month to ask for help.

The Woodyard Fund paid the full $158 bill, which will keep Pryor's lights and heat on while she looks for another job.

"I'm glad that the Salvation Army is around," she said.

The Woodyard Fund helps people in Richland, Lexington, Fairfield and Newberry counties who are struggling financially keep their heat on or get it turned back on during the coldest months of the year, November through March.

The fund was started in 1816 by the Ladies Benevolent Society, who provided firewood or coal to needy families. In 1930, the editor of The State began publicizing the fund and those it helped, a tradition that continues each winter.

Pryor, who also received help from the fund several years ago after a layoff, said she is thankful for the assistance, especially since the prospects of finding a job in this economy are low.

She said a recent trip to the unemployment office was discouraging when a worker told her, "there's just nothing out there."

"It's awful."

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