PORTLAND, Maine — Ever heard of a wood bank? It’s likely you haven’t because Maine has just a handful of them. The idea is straightforward: Just as food banks provide food, wood banks provide firewood to heat the homes of people who are struggling to get by.
The need is especially great this winter because there are no energy bargains out there. Oil, natural gas, and firewood are all expensive, which is why the work of a small group of volunteers on the Boothbay peninsula—all of them male, all in their sixties and beyond—is invaluable.
The Woodchucks, as they’re known, meet for a couple of hours on Tuesday and Saturday mornings all year long. They collect hardwood, cut it, split it, stack it and, when it’s seasoned, deliver it to people in Boothbay, Boothbay Harbor, Southport, and Edgecomb. (Students from Lincoln Academy often help with the stacking.) What do the people who receive the firewood have to pay? Nothing.
“When they see us coming, they’re very happy,” Woodchuck Denny Denniston said. “They’re very proud people, but they are appreciative and the nicest people in the world. And they really like it when we show up and give them a way to make it through the winter.”
The Woodchucks are warmed not only by the gratitude of the people they’re helping and the physical effort that goes into preparing the wood. (They delivered 55 cords last winter to 42 households.) But they're also warmed by the pleasure of each other’s company.
“It’s just a good bunch of guys,” Ole Olson said. “We love hanging out together.”
What’s perhaps surprising is that more communities haven’t started wood banks.
“We’re in the state of Maine where everybody has chainsaws,” Olson said. “They know how to split wood and create firewood. To me, it’s a no-brainer.”
Note: The Woodchucks program is supported in part by the nonprofit Boothbay peninsula Community Resources Council. If you want to donate to the Woodchucks, make a note on your check or indicate in some way that your contribution should go to them.