BELFAST — It’s been an up-and-down couple of weeks for Waldo County Woodshed, a new Belfast nonprofit made up of volunteers who work to provide firewood to families in need in Waldo County. Similar to a citizen-initiated food bank, the organization became a 501(c)(3) two weeks ago and were excited to distribute firewood to six families in desperate need of firewood for warmth.
The second to last weekend in February, volunteers worked a half day that Saturday to split and cut four-and-a-half cords of wood that the nonprofit had purchased.
“We had students from Orono College working on a Saturday with our Board members,” said Dawn Caswell, general manager. “We had three cord cut and delivered that day with another cord and half waiting for the families [to pick up].”
At some point during the day after that weekend, a man and a woman in a black pickup truck drove up to the wood yard where the wood was stored and enlisted the help of the wood lot manager (who assumed they were one of the designated families) in loading up not just one, but two truckloads of the wood, clearing the Shed’s inventory completely out. Only a short time later did the Waldo County Woodshed president discover they’d been robbed.
Unfortunately, right around the time of the discovery a couple days later, the designated six families showed up at the delivery spot, hoping to bring back home donated firewood, only to find it bare.
This has been one of the coldest winters Maine has seen in years. That night, the temperature was set to be minus 10 degrees. “These people don’t have heat; they don’t have oil, nothing,” said Caswell. “All we were able to do is send them home with literally an armful of firewood.”
Predictably, the reaction to the theft was shrill, with one person commenting on the Waldo County Woodshed’s Facebook page:
“OMG who could be that rude and careless really. If you see this post you jerk, bring back the wood. You’re not the only one in need while you sit there warm in your house and other families sit there freezing tonight. Wish I had enough wood for the poor people going without because of this ***hole. Not impressed at all. These people go out of their way to help the people of Waldo county and you ruin it. Like I said karma will get you and I hope it gets you good.”
Word began to spread of the situation, and small donations came pouring in from local residents. Woodcutter Justin Gushee donated a cord of split and cut wood. The Waldo County Woodshed was also able to purchase three more cords of wood from Gushee, which he offered to cut for free.
On Feb. 28, locals Adam Way and his wife, Tracy Boardman, took inventory of their own firewood supply and realized they could spare a truckload. Adam reached out to the Waldo County Sheriff's Office and with two deputy’s help, came by in the late night to load and deliver a half cord of firewood to a new, protected spot for the Waldo County Woodshed.
“They’re not looking for publicity; they just really wanted to donate,” said Caswell. “I didn’t talk to [Way and Boardman] personally, but if I could say anything it would be the support they’ve given the Waldo County Woodshed right now at this time of need is amazing. We can’t thank them enough for what they’ve done.” Since then, two of the families have been able to come back and get wood to last them until the temperatures rise. The four other families are making arrangements to do the same.
Asked if she thought the thieves might be in a similar desperate situation, she said, “I would really like to hope that they really needed it, but they could have just asked us. We have people on the list and it’s typically no more than five days tops before we can get them something, even half a truckload.”
The investigation into the theft is ongoing. If anyone has any tips, please contact the Waldo County Sheriff’s Office at 207-338-6786.
This is the Waldo County Woodshed’s first winter of being able to give wood to deserving families. They’re currently buying more wood and seasoning it for next season. To learn more, follow their Facebook page or visit their website waldocountywoodshed.org
Kay Stephens can be reached at email@example.com