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Churches offer warmth to those in need

Sunday, Dec. 9 | By Alisa Booze Troetschel
At Grace Episcopal Church in The Plains, Chris Harper, left, Tim Karney, Tom Middleton and Jeff Brown stack wood that was donated anonymously and will be given to people who use wood to heat their homes in winter. -- Photo By Alisa Booze Troetschel
Churches usually do ministry with sermons and Bibles — Grace Bible Church in Marshall and Grace Episcopal Church in The Plains also use chain saws.

Herbert Wilkinson, who with Mark Freeman oversees the project at Grace Bible Church, puts it simply. The ministry assists those who need wood for their wood stoves and would otherwise go cold.

Church members, usually men, meet for breakfast and then go to work on the woodpile.

“These guys are county boys,” said Wilkenson. “They’re handy with chain saws and splitters.”

Wood comes from church members, neighbors and Bartlett Tree Service, said the Rev. Chris Robinson, the pastor. Once, said Wilkenson, a man offered to bring them two dump truck loads.

As many as a dozen laborers, sometimes inc luding teens, donate their time. They supply wood to three to five households. Recipients include an elderly man, and also a woman who lives alone.

Grace Bible will deliver, said Robinson, and tends to operate in the northern part of Fauquier County.

While Grace Bible started its ministry in 2008, Grace Episcopal got an earlier start, about eight years ago. A somewhat larger operation, they’ve made deliveries as far away as Remington and Culpeper.

Sue Smith, the outreach chair of the mission and outreach commission, said the whole idea started when people asked for help in heating their homes.

Assistance was waiting to be tapped. Like their compatriots in Marshall, parishioners had plenty of trees on their properties that had fallen or needed to be cut.

At the moment, Grace Episcopal has an abundance of wood to give.

They work with about 20 to 25 households over the winter, Smith said. And, they actively seek referrals, and are working with Fauquier County’s Department of Social Services.

The church also hopes to share the ministry with more helpers. Toward that end, Grace Episcopal has contacted other area churches.

They are also growing the project within their own church, particularly among children and teens. Students at Little Graces Preschool & Kindergarten, or “Little Woodchucks,” as they call them, can gather pine cones and kindling for fire-starting material. The Sunday School children and youth can participate, too.

Like at Grace Bible, the folks at Grace Episcopal usually start with breakfast.

“You get more help if you feed them first,” Smith said.

About 10 people come to Grace Episcopal to work, she said. And once, an unemployed recipient of the wood labored with them.

Her husband, Paul Smith, who works in the program,said there is a great deal of camaraderie.

But there is also a lot of need. He once delivered wood to a home with a couple of pieces of plywood on a dirt floor and a pot belly stove. There is a lot of poverty in The Plains, he said.

For wood or to volunteer, call Grace Bible Church at (540) 364-3832. To receive or donate wood, call Grace Episcopal Church at (540) 253-5177.
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