Project Firewood, “IMPACT Day”
We work very closely with the Jackson County Council on Aging – cutting, splitting and delivering firewood all fall and through the winter to older adults in our community who heat with firewood. In August, logs start showing up in our parking lot, which we chainsaw into blocks. On Saturdays Oct.-March, we split the wood and make deliveries. Our biggest wood splitting/delivery day is called IMPACT Day (usually in Sept. or Oct.). We will have over 200 volunteers in our parking lot working to help our community. Everyone is welcome to help according to their ability and comfort zone. Over half of the volunteers are Western Carolina University students.
Recently we were asked about the history of our Firewood Days.
In 2010 the United Methodist Church started a new initiative called “Rethink Church and IMPACT Day” which essentially meant ‘take church out of the church building and do something good in your community’. Each Methodist church in the USA, if they chose to participate, could IMPACT their community as they saw fit. In our case, in June 2010, our first “IMPACT Day”, we decided to cut, split and deliver firewood to the older adults in our community, have a free yard sale, build ramps, and have the children deliver cookies to nursing homes and wash their wheelchairs. It was a great success with more than 300 volunteers, maybe closer to +400 volunteers. We involved other United Methodist Churches in our county. Over the years, we have concentrated on the Firewood Project in partnership with The Jackson County Council on Aging. The last few years we have one big “IMPACT Day” in September or October and then in the subsequent winter months, on either the first or second Saturday of the month, (October-March) we have mini IMPACT Days because the Firewood need never goes away. As far as we know, we are the only church that still does IMPACT Day to this extent in our area.
Due to our reputation, tree removal companies in our county bring us hardwood logs. Our church is located in the middle of Western Carolina University. When the university has to remove a hardwood tree or when one comes down due to a storm, most likely it will appear in our parking lot. We have designated skilled people chainsaw the wood. We train volunteers on the splitters and anyone can load and help deliver firewood. The Council on Aging has about 8 splitting machines, and when we have the big IMPACT Day planned, we will rent splitters from the local rental shop, McNeely Rental, Sylva, NC.
We depend heavily on volunteers. Community organizations (like Rotary), university clubs or sports teams (Equestrian, soccer, football, basketball, track), fraternities, sororities and other churches help on our IMPACT Days. Word gets out. We also feed the volunteers lunch.
How do we know who to deliver the wood to? That is where the Council on Aging comes in. On the first day of cold weather, people start calling the Council on Aging for firewood. They have qualification standards – disabled, low income, at least 60 years old and maybe more qualifiers. On the Firewood days the Council on Aging director has individual sheets with directions for deliveries in the county. As each pickup is loaded, the driver picks up a sheet and off they go, and we love to hear the stories of their trip and the clients that they interacted with.
The Firewood Ministry is our big ministry. This winter 2018-2019, we sent out 257 loads of firewood! It does take a village to get this done. We are grateful for the volunteers who help with this wonderful community ministry.