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Wood for Warmth is a community charity event – with chainsaws

  • Volunteers, including Ben Berliner (center), 13, split and stack wood during the Wood for Warmth event at the Hopkinton-Webster Transfer Station in Hopkinton on Saturday. Elizabeth Frantz / Monitor staff

  • Roger Biron of Bow uses a chainsaw Saturday during the Wood for Warmth event in Hopkinton on Saturday.

  • Redhawks football player Jonathan McMahon (center), 14, of Hillsboro and Roger Brown of St. Augustine, Fla., stack wood during the Wood for Warmth work day at the Hopkinton-Webster Transfer Station in Hopkinton on Saturday. Elizabeth Frantz / Monitor staff

  • Jeff Dearborn of Old Yankee Tree Services during the Wood for Warmth work day at the Hopkinton-Webster Transfer Station in Hopkinton on Saturday, Nov. 18, 2017. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz—Monitor staff

  • Volunteers participate in Wood for Warmth at the Hopkinton-Webster Transfer Station in Hopkinton on Saturday, Nov. 18, 2017. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz—Monitor staff

  • Volunteers participate in Wood for Warmth at the Hopkinton-Webster Transfer Station in Hopkinton on Saturday, Nov. 18, 2017. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz—Monitor staff

  • Volunteers participate in Wood for Warmth at the Hopkinton-Webster Transfer Station in Hopkinton on Saturday. Elizabeth Frantz photos / Monitor staff

  • Volunteers participate in Wood for Warmth at the Hopkinton-Webster Transfer Station in Hopkinton on Saturday, Nov. 18, 2017. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz—Monitor staff



Monitor staff
Saturday, November 18, 2017

The annual Hopkinton event known as Wood for Warmth isn’t the area’s biggest or oldest charitable community gathering, but it just might be the loudest.

“We like our toys – I mean, tools,” said Bob LaPree of Contoocook, struggling to be heard over the chainsaws, hydraulic splitters, front-end loaders and wood-handling equipment of all types that were in furious action at the Hopkinton-Webster Transfer Station on Saturday morning.

More than 50 people from a half-dozen towns gathered for the annual event, which distributed about 20 cords of wood to homes throughout the region and left around 15 more cords at the transfer station, where it will be available for residents who need some emergency heat during the winter.

The wood is part of what’s called the Sean Powers Wood Bank, named after a popular Hopkinton police officer who was killed in a 2008 traffic accident.

“Every town should have one of them,” said Peter Powers, Sean’s father, of the wood bank. “People need it.”

Powers had just returned from delivering a load of cut and split firewood to a home, where it was stacked by volunteers, including teens from the high school.

Wood for Warmth grew out of a 2002 program providing aid to local residents who needed help buying oil, propane or other winter heating fuel. Over time it concentrated on wood, which is still a source of heat in parts of New Hampshire: Census data indicates that about 33,500 households in the state depend on wood as their primary heating source, although that includes pellets as well as cordwood.

This focus is unusual enough that it has been the subject of coverage by NBC News, among others.

The Sean Powers Wood Bank is fairly informal. Throughout the year, loggers and developers who have cut trees on construction sites leave hardwood logs at the far end of the transfer station, and on the first Saturday after Veterans Day, volunteers gather and turn them into firewood.

Recipients are chosen through a semiformal process that has been developed over the past decade.

“It’s mostly word of mouth. We hear that so-and-so might need wood, so we check with them, see if they’re interested,” said Joyce Rose, a member of the organizing committee.

Convincing people to accept the help can sometimes be difficult. Several people credited Mary Congoran, who along with husband, Tom, is the program’s guiding light, with making that happen.

Volunteers on Saturday ranged from Police Chief Stephen Pecora to owners and employees of some landscaping and logging companies, to teens from sports teams and the high school Interact Club, to members of groups like the Lions and Rotary clubs and the Hopkinton Republican Club, to residents from many walks of life who had heard of the event and wanted to help out.

“This is an eclectic group. Anybody can show up, and everybody pitches in,” said Jack McDevitt, who owns a trucking agency in town and was using his Bobcat to shift logs around.

“It’s very Hopkinton,” is how Seth Greenblott, an attorney, described the event.

The outdoorsy nature of the task is part of the appeal, he admitted, as he carted his chainsaw between piles of logs.

“It gives you a chance to get out, work up a sweat for a good cause. It’s the only real work I do all year,” he said, laughing.

Like many who participated Saturday, Greenblott burns wood at home, and said he appreciated the opportunity to get some tips from professionals such as Chris Boudett, who owns a property maintenance business.

The big chainsaw lesson Greenblott has learned?

“You need good footing,” he said. “That’s important.”

Nearby, Boudett was hand-sharpening his chainsaw, a task that can flummox weekend wood-cutters.

“I have to sharpen it every 15, 20 minutes. The logs are pretty dirty – they’ve been dragged through the dirt,” he said.

“This is a great community,” he said.

(David Brooks can be reached at 369-3313 or dbrooks@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @GraniteGeek.)