From the Winter 2021 Issue
Weekend warriors warm hearts
Firewood can produce light from darkness, heat from cold, and in more than a few local situations, hope from despair.
The local non-profit organization Firewood Rescue began in 2018 when an educator, who has a long history of assisting veterans, heard one too many stories about area residents who had fallen on hard times and didn’t know how to reach for help.
“I thought ‘what about the elderly, disabled, seriously ill, and folks who found themselves in dire circumstances through no fault of their own?’ ” said organizer Paul Krames. He recognized a need, had an idea for a solution, so he did what any other difference maker does―he started a Facebook page.
Almost immediately, volunteers and firewood suppliers were attracted to Firewood Rescue on Facebook. The activity level soon became frenetic and Krames organized a board of directors. In less than a year, board member Eileen Epstein transformed FR from a “weekend warrior project to be able to mobilize and coordinate volunteer resources throughout the week as well,” he said.
In 2018, the group would meet over a weekend, gather, split, and stack wood, load it into trucks and trailers, and deliver. Now the organization cuts and splits wood several times a month and has accumulated significant amounts of firewood in two locations in Sagle way before the first hints of cold weather.
There were more than 50 cords of cut, split, and neatly stacked wood at each location by the end of August 2019, with many more work parties planned through September and October.
A lack of firewood is usually a symptom of something catastrophic going on. That is why FR partners with Community Action Partnership. For the most part, CAP refers folks to Firewood Rescue as part of a comprehensive approach to link services with the needy.
Krames knew he was on to something when he received a tip about an elderly veteran the first winter FR started. The man had just had surgery and his only source of heat was wood. Winter had set in. Krames knocked on the vet’s door to let him know he had a whole bunch of wood with him and volunteers who wanted to stack it up.
“He was so choked up, he turned his back and started to cry,” Krames said. “This man was too proud to ask for help.”
Recent FR stories would warm any heart, including support for a wheelchair-bound amputee; a family whose father and husband was in a horrific, near-fatal crash; and a 70-year-old woman, who had holes in her roof, whose only source of heat is a wood stove.
Mel Dick, immediate past president of Sandpoint Rotary, joined with Rotarians John and Donna Lorenz and others to prioritize FR last year. Rotary donated money and labor, and Rotarian Eric Donenfeld, co-owner of Northwest Autobody, donated secured property as a waypoint for wood to be dropped off.
Current Rotary President Ken Wood applied for and received a Rotary grant to help fund repair of a log splitter and to assist in paying for gas to transport the wood. One anonymous Rotarian matched the grant and Wood made the donation in Dick’s name.
“Volunteers run chainsaws, haul wood, load and unload trucks, and make deliveries, often in the cold and rain,” said Krames. “It’s humbling and a little unbelievable. The recipients are always so grateful.”
FW Rescue is geared up to help up to 100 families this winter and is bracing for the worst because of the economic fallout from Covid-19.
The organization attempts to serve as a bridge to help families and rarely restocks the same family more than once―except for rare circumstances. Previous to this year, financial difficulty wasn’t a qualifying condition for help but with many layoffs and economic devastation hitting local families this year, Krames and Esplin felt the organization had to broaden its net.
Want to donate, help, or know someone who needs help? Reach the group on Facebook @FirewoodRescue or email [email protected].