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Good sticks .. With two of the bags of firewood being distributed to those in need are (from left) Rotary Club of Timaru president Peter Russell, firewood project co-ordinator Tony Henderson and Salvation Army lieutenants Jacob and Emma Howan. PHOTO: CLAIRE ALLISON

by Claire Allison

Timaru Rotarians are doing their bit to keep people warm this winter.

With support from local businesses and club members’ voluntary labour, the club has so far given 200 bags of cut firewood to the Salvation Army to distribute to families in need.

The bags are flying out the door, and the club is hoping other businesses will step up and donate their unwanted pallets so they can continue meeting the need.

Firewood project co-ordinator Tony Henderson said Mainfreight had offered the club its stockpile of unwanted wooden pallets, and a team of volunteers had been formed to break them down into usable firewood.

“We had a small team. Three of us with chainsaws would break the pallets down, and a bigger team was cutting them to length with dropsaws,” Mr Henderson said.

The project had received considerable support from local businesses. Local businessman and club member Todd Mudie provided a vehicle and trailer to transport the pallets from Mainfreight and a generator to run the dropsaw, and Aorangi Sandblasting and Spraypainting owner Gavin Ladbrook offered the club the use of a paddock in which to cut up the pallets.

Mr Henderson said it was clear there was a need.

“We were told the first lady [to receive some wood] burst into tears. She’d been cutting up anything wooden in her house – like chopping boards – to try to keep warm.

“Another lady had been turning the oven on and opening the door to let the heat out.

“So we’re thrilled to have been able to do this, and we’re more than happy to carry it on.

“Most of us are either retired or semi-retired, so time is not an issue, and winter has only just started. July and August are going to be the really cold months.”

Rotary club president Peter Russell said the club was delighted at how well the project was going.

“We understand wood is going to get quite scarce, so we need to be on our toes.”

Mr Russell said it would be great if other local businesses could support the project by donating unwanted wooden pallets.

“It’s going somewhere it’s needed, and we’ve got the volunteers to do the work.”

Salvation Army lieutenants Jacob and Emma Howan said families were struggling with the cost of heating their homes over winter.

“We find that we do come across people in our community who have fireplaces that they are not using, simply because they don’t have that upfront money to pay for wood,” Mr Howan said.

“And, at the moment, availability of wood is also an issue.”

People might come in for assistance with food, but it would become clear the reason they needed food was because how much they were spending on heating.

Mrs Howan said a family might only request blankets but further inquiry would reveal the real need was for firewood to heat the home.