'Wood' you like to help Habitat for Humanity?

It may have been a long winter, but it was a productive one for Habitat for Humanity Piatt County. The cold weather increased its firewood sales to a record $27,000, topping the previous high by nearly $10,000.

And they could have sold more.

“It (winter) was too good, because we didn’t have wood for some people who wanted it in Februrary,” said Joe Bruce, who has organized the wood splitting sales and firewood delivery for Habitat since 2008. “We ran out of wood. We could have sold more if we had the inventory.”

The organization needs someone to take over for Bruce, who will move to Palatine in July. Although he currently stores the wood at his rural Monticello home, a new coordinator would not have to take on those duties. What is needed is someone to process requests for wood and to organize volunteers to get it delivered. The peak times are September through December.

Dean Howarter, a Habitat volunteer who helps split wood each Thursday, cannot underestimate the importance of the ongoing fundraiser.

“It’s very important. If you raise $25,000 you can almost build half a house. So it’s a very important project for us,” said Howarter. Habitat uses volunteer labor to bring the cost of a house down so families that could not ordinarily afford can have a chance to be homeowners. Approved applicants must be able to afford a monthly house payment and provide sweat equity hours in its construction.

Wood sales are the largest fundraiser for Habitat, and it’s a long process to get wood ready for fireplaces, campfires and wood-burning stoves.

Bruce said donated tree trunks – some of which come from the City of Monticello when they remove trees from local right-of-ways – are first segmented into 18-inch-long chunks, usually in the spring. The wood then dries for a year before a second cut reduces it to firewood size, which is sold by the cord.

Six to eight volunteers spend each Thursday morning when weather permits chopping wood with four Habitat-owned log splitters and a pair of chain saws. For Bruce, it’s a good cause that allows him some regularly scheduled exercise.

“I believe in the cause, and I enjoy this kind of exercise. I’m not the kind of guy that likes to run, so I work this way to get some exercise,” said Bruce, who is an agronomist.

It also fits into the Habitat theme of getting your hands dirty to further the cause. Howarter notes volunteerism is the biggest asset for the organization, which has put up nine homes in the county since 1999.

“It’s all donated labor from here (firewood fundraising) to the house,” added Howarter.

The group sells between 170 and 240 cords of wood a year, with each cord weighing between 2,000 and 4,000 pounds. Those wanting product for campfires and fireplaces generally purchase mixed hardwoods that include hard maple, cherry, walnut and mulberry. More expensive premium hardwoods like oak, hickory and hedge are better for heating buildings and homes.

Habitat wood sales pick up in September in preparation of winter. During the last three months of the year volunteers deliver about 8 to 12 loads per week. It then slows down around Christmas and picks up steam a few weeks later until there is no more wood to sell.

Habitat does not cut down trees, and Bruce says they do not accept donations of silver (soft) maple, cottonwood, sycamore and pine, as Howarter said they burn too fast, “like paper.”

How to help

Those wanting to donate or order wood can leave a message at 217-762-9500. Potential firewood sale organizers should contact current Habitat President Max Olson at 762-7936.

Categories (2):News, People

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