Today: Jul 03 , 2020

The Community Firewood Effort

09 December 2007  
Outside temperatures were less than 40º on Saturday morning, but that didn't stop APS volunteers and many others from loading free firewood into the back of pickup trucks for needy families.

Editor's Update: Please note, this is a story from 2007 - we have been informed that the United Way no longer distributes free firewood. 

Tammy Linn and young volunteers stack wood.
Volunteers stack wood in preparation for loading another pickup.
Outside temperatures were less than 40º on Saturday morning, but that didn't stop APS volunteers and many others from loading free firewood into the back of pickup trucks for needy families.


It was four years ago when Jeff Spohn, the Northwest Division Forestry Manager for APS, realized that many of the trees which had to be cleared to protect the electric lines could be used to help families keep warm during the winter. And, while the program was initially successful, Spohn knew there must be a way it could reach a lot more people. 

Enter Tammy Linn, the Executive Director of the Yavapai County United Way. When she heard of the program, she thought it was terrific, and agreed to help qualifiy the recipients based on need, and also to gather up volunteers to help split the wood and load it into the trucks. 

Mike Johnsen, the APS Community Development Manager for the Northwest Division explained, "Tammy pulled all the parties together. Jeff is our Forestry manager here and he really came up with the idea."

APS's Northwest Division covers a lot of land; from Kingman, across to Ashfork, through Oak Creek Canyon, down to Sunset Point - about 25 men work all year to ensure that the powerlines are clear and free from potential falling debris that could damage the lines and interrupt power.

Jeff Spohn added, "What you see here, this resource is definitely a year 'round project. Typically, November, and the first weeks in December is when we distribute. The Red Cross has provided the site and the facility for us to utilize and distribute it, United Way takes care of all the administrative aspects of it."  


Jeff Spohn, left and Mike Johnsen, right.
It's a terrific example of various parties coming together to make something good happen in the community. APS saves the wood all year. The City of Prescott donates a site where the wood can be split into firewood. The American Red Cross allows the wood to be kept in their parking lot. The United Way works to qualify the families and find workers. Various organizations pitch in to help get it distributed. 


"We have all this wood from our clearing that we do around our power lines. We split it at a site that the city has donated to us to use, and then haul it here [to the American Red Cross offices] once it's split," Johnsen explains. "The first two years were without the partnership of United Way, so it was a lot smaller scale, less organized. Getting the United Way on board to handle the administrative part of it, making sure that there are qualified recipients - They've taken it to the level we couldn't have alone. We needed all three of us to take it to where it is. This partnership has just been super."

Linn, from her perspective, thought the project was a great opportunity and welcomed the chance for United Way to get involved. "This is the second time the United Way has collaborated with the American Red Cross and APS, to distribute wood to people who are the neediest in our community. We'll probably go through 170-180 cords, this was the fifth weekend. It is just probably one of the best things we can do for the community. It costs nothing, and we're helping people in other ways than just giving them money. So it's great."

Wearing her red Santa hat, Linn was one of the first to jump into the back of the pickup truck when it arrived. As the volunteers tossed in the wood, she stacked it efficiently and neatly in the truckbed. It was easily apparent that the group had lots of practice doing this. With everyone working together, the entire truck was loaded up and ready to leave in less than 10 minutes.  

Once she was finished and hopped out of the truck, Linn was quick to credit the other volunteers that had helped over the last five weeks, "Oh, my gosh! We have had APS employees, we've had Unisource employees, National Bank of Arizona, Dillards, we've had boy scouts, we've got former councilman Steve Blair, we've had so many, we've had the Frontier Rotary group, we've had Bradshaw Mountain kids, we've had Embry Riddle students, Prescott High Students, it has been just so wonderful. It's just been great." 

And,what does the person who started it all think about the activity he sees all around him? Spohn, who obviously feels a bit uncomfortable in the spotlight, said simply, "It's a good thing, why not put our resources to work this way?"

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Lynne LaMaster

Lynne LaMaster is the Founder of the eNewsAZ Network of websites. She will be leaving for new adventures on May 15, 2020.