Hot, humid weather didn't stop about 100 Lamoille County volunteers from logging several hours in a makeshift lumberyard. They pitched in on the Sept. 11 day of service to help their neighbors who can't afford enough fuel for the cold winter months.
"Every year it just amazes me how many people show up and come here and work really hard all day long and get the work squared away for those folks," said Dan Noyes, who organized the wood program.
Volunteers are working side-by-side with those who will be receiving the wood, making the process more rewarding for everyone.
"I retired about 13 years ago from working with my head, and I decided I want to work with my hands. So, here I am and it's a lot of fun," said Gene Vossler, a volunteer.
For Vossler, this labor of love lasts more than a day. He commits about 12 hours a week to volunteering. Lately, that's meant splitting and stacking cords of wood.
Trucks will deliver to those who aren't mobile; others will pick up their cord of wood after they're done volunteering, like first-time recipient Nancy Halperin.
"It's going to be a tough winter for me. I'm going to have to scramble, but I'll get by somehow," Halperin said.
Low-income advocates say that's the case for a growing number of Vermonters. The state will spend an additional $6 million this year to make up for federal cuts, but applications for assistance rose from 18,000 to 28,000, so payouts will shrink.
"The impact is not something that we can absolutely be sure of, but we have a pretty good idea that it's going to be devastating for a lot of people," said Jan Demers, the executive director of the Champlain Valley Office of Economic Opportunity.
Demers says tightening of eligibility requirements will also stress the system and its users. She says state legislators are listening and hopes the message resonates in Washington.
The wood from the program is paid for by the Low Income Heating Assistance Program.
Organizers say the Morrisville volunteers have helped more than 200 people over their five years.
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