Warming hearts, heating homes By Joshua Nishimoto
During the cold winter months, North Idaho can be a dark and frigid existence. Without the proper means or ability to warm one’s home, things can turn quickly to a life-or-death emergency. Who better to step up in an emergency than a community who is looking to do something miraculous for their neighbors?
“In 2017, a woman I knew in the community contacted me. Her husband was disabled, and they needed firewood,” recalled Paul Krames, founder of Firewood Rescue. “I knew that the VFW was providing firewood to veterans, so I contacted a guy I knew who was providing wood off his property. He said that he had the wood but didn’t have a way of transporting it. So, I made an appeal on Facebook for someone with a truck to pick up and deliver the wood. People responded so quickly. That gave me the idea to help provide firewood for people who aren’t veterans, and the endeavor took off from there.” As the cold winter months have arrived, Krames and his fellow Firewood Rescue team are looking to spread the word and make themselves available to help those in need of a temporary firewood source.
“Sometimes we’ll go through long stretches without deliveries,” Krames said. “It’s been a priority for us to increase our outreach to the community and surrounding communities. We deliver primarily to Bonner County and some outlying areas. We want to increase the community’s awareness that we have stores of firewood for those in dire situations.
With the rise of COVID in the last year, Krames and his team are seeing more and more people needing firewood who have been affected by either loss of job due to contracting COVID, or simply not having the strength to cut and collect wood themselves.
“Just recently I received a phone call about a family who had COVID for three weeks,” Krames said. “The husband hasn’t worked, and he didn’t have the strength to cut wood for his family. The family didn’t have money to buy wood. Firewood Rescue made a delivery to them the next morning. The woman cried in gratitude.” That’s the great thing about Firewood Rescue volunteers. Whether rain, sleet or snow, Firewood Rescue volunteers are always willing to work outside, lend a hand and help keep people warm during the winter.
“That’s typical,” Krames said. “We’ll answer the call. If we need a delivery to be made, our volunteers have trucks, and they rally. We don’t keep people waiting. We’re not a government agency, so we’re not constrained. They call us and we provide an emergency load of firewood. Our main concern is that if people don’t take the steps they need to take care of their ongoing firewood needs, they are going to come back to us asking for wood in two months. Our mission is kind of a gap; to tide people over until they can make arrangements to get firewood.”
To provide for their long-term firewood needs, Firewood Rescue refers them to a government-funded program called Community Action Partnership (in Bonner County), with point-person Shirley Paulison. After going through the application process, if they qualify, they may get a check to cover a couple months’ worth of firewood or funds to purchase heating oil or propane. The local church can also be a resource.
“We kind of do tough love,” Krames said. “We want to make sure people don’t go cold because they are dependent on firewood to heat their homes. By the same token, we want them to take actions to secure their own firewood on an ongoing basis.”
For those who do need Firewood Rescue’s services, they either are referred by an agency, heard about it through friends, neighbors or family members, or through the Facebook posts on local pages, which Krames uses to market Firewood Rescue’s activities and to thank the volunteers.
By the first week of November, they had already made over 20 deliveries, according to Krames. “And we haven’t even hit the real cold weather or snow yet. And we will deliver in the snow. We have an abundance of firewood stockpiled. We are ready to answer the call. One of the things that we pride ourselves on is that when people need firewood, we are quick to respond.”
Firewood Rescue is currently selling T-shirts to help raise funds for fuel, equipment repair and purchase. Firewood Rescue is a 501c3 that operates on a shoestring budget. If you want to purchase a T-shirt, contact FirewoodRescueT@gmail.com and specify your shirt size. With over 50 volunteers, Firewood Rescue is ready to answer the call and provide quick and much-needed assistance to those who need it most. Those who need assistance are encouraged to email Firewood Rescue at FirewoodRescue2020@gmail.com and provide their contact information and briefly describe their mitigating circumstances.
“We would like to thank all businesses, families, couples and individuals who have donated their time, land, wood, equipment and/or money to Firewood Rescue,” Krames said. “And lastly, I would also be remiss if I didn’t mention the role of board member Eileen Esplin. The impact, growth and outreach of Firewood Rescue is due in large measure to Eileen’s involvement. She donates countless hours, scopes out job sites, and she is the point person and coordinator of the volunteers and their activities. The organization owes her a huge debt of gratitude.”