by June Pichel Cook
CRAFTSBURY – Keeping warm this winter while facing stresses from the COVID-19 pandemic, financial and otherwise, may be a daunting hurdle for many families. The Craftsbury Energy Committee (CEC) and its Firewood Program has helped to bring a little relief to some families in the area.
The committee received an $1,800 grant through the New England Grassroots Environment Fund (NEGEF), which enabled the CEC to purchase 10 cords of log-length firewood. Coupled with the Craftsbury Outdoor Center’s donation of six more cords, the CEC could provide 13 families under financial stress with a little warmth.
Kevin Gregoire, chair of the CEC said that “Through the committee’s work, sixteen cords of cut and split firewood will enable 13 families to stay warmer this winter.”
He explained, “The energy committee modeled and worked with the Lamoille County United Way Firewood Program and supplied a few families in the area with the firewood that normally the United Way would serve,”
“The program encouraged receiving households to participate in processing and delivering the log-length firewood if they were able to do so, along with other volunteers in the community. The result was an incredible community effort that involved the energy of over three dozen people, ages 8-74, working side-by-side to cut, split, stack, and deliver the 16 cords of wood over three Saturdays and Sundays and some weekdays by athletes from the Craftsbury Outdoor Center.”
The firewood project evolved by repurposing the grant received earlier for its Indoor Storm Window Dresser project, which had to be curtailed because of the pandemic. The storm window project required volunteers to enter homes to take measurements for the storm windows before they could be built. It was deemed unsafe to do that, Gregoire said, and the CEC applied to have the grant used for the firewood project. The NEGEF was very supportive of this change.
Additionally, Dick Dreissigacker and Judy Geer, owners of the Craftsbury Outdoor Center, donated and delivered cords of wood from logging that was done on their property.
Gregoire said they were grateful to Dreissigacker and Geer for giving them the wood and noted that the Outdoor Center’s mission is dedicated to environmental stewardship and sustainability. The missions of the NEGEF, Outdoor Center, and Craftsbury Energy Committee is to promote and support practices that are sustainable for the natural environment.
Through the help of County Forester Jared Nunery and the Outdoor Center, the CEC was able to secure the log-length firewood, which is mostly hardwood. Area residents stepped up to loan log splitters, trailers, chainsaws, and equipment. Coupled with volunteers’ efforts, the firewood project was implemented and successful.
The donation of log-length trees from the Outdoor Center came from their forest and was sustainably harvested by Jim and Alex Labounty of Irasburg. The 10 cords purchased by the energy committee were secured through logger Justin Taft of Charleston.
The CEC’s mission, Gregoire emphasized, is “to lead and engage the local and greater community in energy conservation, energy efficiency, and renewable energy initiatives.” The committee does this through education, advocacy, outreach, and partnering with neighbors and town groups.
In getting the word out about the firewood project, he noted, they worked with the Craftsbury Neighbor-to-Neighbor Taskforce. Flyers were inserted in the weekly grocery boxes that are distributed through the taskforce.
Most of the cutting and splitting was done in August, Gregoire said, and noted that log-length firewood was scarce at the time. “Many thanks go out to the material, equipment, and money donors, and to all the volunteers young and old(er) who put in a lot of committed time,” Gregoire emphasized.
Participants were Gregoire, Ned Houston, Will Dechert, Dave Brown, John Stoddard, Devon Maskell, Foster Maskell, Peter and Tamara Burke, Josh Carpenter, and Brian Machesney. Numerous athletes and staff from the Outdoor Center helped to make the project a success.