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by Claire Allison

A community project that has supplied hundreds of struggling South Canterbury families with firewood over winter is in jeopardy.

The Rotary Club of Timaru is in desperate need of new premises for its firewood project, as the building it operates from now has been sold, and the club needs to vacate within days.

Club member Tony Henderson said the project had been growing over the years, and with a year-long supply of offcuts from a local furniture factory, more agencies had been able to distribute firewood to their clients.

“We can see this project continuing into the future. But the one problem we have is that we need somewhere to process the wood and to store it. If we can’t get that, the project is at risk, and a lot of people in South Canterbury will miss out.”

Mr Henderson said the club did not want to lose the ongoing supply of wood, which club members collected weekly, but would need somewhere to store and process it over summer, in preparation for next winter.

Representatives from the social agencies that have distributed firewood to clients – the Salvation Army, Family Works and St Vincent de Paul – said the value of the project could not be underestimated.

Having an ongoing source of ready-to-burn wood that was easy to use and burned hot was invaluable, and all the wood provided by the club had been distributed to families.

“It’s being able to go out to our shed, pick up a box of kindling and a bag of wood, and take it to the client. It’s vitally important.”

While some had considered it to be a mild winter, staff were seeing families in cold, damp homes, which led to sick children and increased medical and transport costs.

Power bills were a common source of anxiety in households, and seemed to spiral out of control quickly, so families were sacrificing heating in order to keep on top of the bills.

Andrew Rosanowski said he estimated the Salvation Army alone had distributed about 1200 bags of wood over winter, to more than 200 families.

*Anyone who may be able to help the club find new premises is asked to contact programme co-ordinator Jim Garden on 027 436-7700.