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Sumter Item’s 8th Summer of Caring asks readers to donate to the ministry

Sumter United Ministries

Pop bombs, pool floats and charcoal barbecues… this year’s summer feels like every year’s summer. How does summer feel, however, this year compared to the past?

For Sumter United Ministries, the expressions and comments of customers who visit us overwhelmingly indicate uncertainty, difficulty and dissatisfaction. At staff meetings and community gatherings, we often say that God has called SUM to be “the light in the darkness.” When this darkness seems to spread, there are many opportunities to share hope.

For Crisis Relief Ministry, we saw a greater number of older people (70+) and new clients than in previous years. The impact of inflation has caused many customers to make difficult choices between ‘needs’ and dispense with ‘wants’. Recently, there has been a flurry of requests for final opinions on water bills. It’s a sign that people aren’t sticking to their household budget, which usually results in them skipping the cheapest bill. More seniors and families without DSS SNAP assistance are asking for food. We had to make tough choices about the frequency of food aid, as donations arrived more slowly than a year ago.

Phone calls are also a good barometer of a community’s needs. Calls to the SUM office more frequently requesting assistance with emergency shelter and hotel stays, bus tickets and relocation due to eviction or criminal domestic violence than in the past. Volunteer shortages still exist for us, so more time is needed to respond to these calls, assess assistance and respond to requests.

The biggest positive is the relief on the customers’ faces! We are still here as we have been for 28 years. Our doors are open and our goal is to help and provide relief. In a social and financial climate that leaves so many wondering if anyone cares, we are able to share hope and provide direct financial assistance and tangible resources to our Sumter County neighbors in the need.

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The Sumter Item continues its annual fundraiser to benefit SUM. Summer of Caring, which will run through Labor Day, asks Item readers to donate money to the faith-based nonprofit that provides emergency and life-rebuilding services, such as food, shelter, clothing, medical and educational aid, financial assistance and more.

Each client is interviewed about their needs and advised on their spending habits and other resources they may need.

Money is brought or mailed to The Item’s office in downtown Sumter, and we in turn deliver every penny to SUM. Donations are used to help fund emergency items, resources and paying bills. When there is enough, SUM staff can offer larger projects and long-term solutions such as rebuilding a roof or replacing an HVAC.

Every Wednesday, The Item will post a donation update alongside a story from SUM detailing the real impact on a customer. Donations will be listed, so people often like to donate in honor of a loved one or community member.

Last year, readers opened their wallets and donated $5,935. The campaign has raised $37,219 since 2014.

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As times are difficult for many of us, it is the greatest joy to put the interests of others before our own. Your contributions, prayers and volunteer hours make this possible. Summer of Caring is more than a campaign. It is a season of hope.

Kayla Green of The Item contributed to this report.