Mary Fuller has been lugging around a heavy heart for three years.
Her son, Christopher Fuller, was shot to death in Fairfield County in January 2007. He was 22.
Fuller, 52, said her oldest son's death has robbed her of the one person she could depend upon.
Christopher Fuller worked around the clock, she said. During the week, he worked at a chicken processing plant. On the weekends, he would work as a waiter at catered events, squirreling away money earned on tips. Working the banquet circuit was a part-time job they often worked together.
"He was the man of my house," Mary Fuller said. "He was always trying to help me with my other children and keep them focused on school."
Since Christopher Fuller's death, Mary Fuller has had a tougher time making ends meet. Gone is the financial support she got from her oldest son. Today, Mary Fuller said, she's incurring greater expense by helping to care for the three children Christopher Fuller left behind. Her grandchildren range in age from 3 to 7.
"They are beautiful children," Mary Fuller said. "And they look just like him."
For two years, Mary Fuller has been helped by the Woodyard Fund. Mary Fuller is a custodian in the Richland 1 school district. But with more responsibilities at home, she's unable to work multiple jobs as she once did.
So the Woodyard Fund has helped Mary Fuller heat her Hyatt Park home for the past two winters.
"It has been a great help for me," she said.
The Woodyard Fund helps people in Richland, Lexington, Fairfield and Newberry counties who are struggling financially to 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, which 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. It's administered now by the Salvation Army.
No one has been charged in Christopher Fuller's death. Because of that she's still mourning.
"It's hard for a working parent to work and grieve," she said.