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Volunteers bring free firewood to families
"Lumberjacks" in Caroline County are among volunteers throughout the region who cut and deliver wood to the needy

 Cleve Robeson of Wright's Chapel Methodist Church loads wood into a truck to deliver to a family in Ladysmith. Robeson is the organizer of a group called the Lumberjacks that delivers wood to needy families each month.
Elijah Nouvelage/THE FREE LANCE-STAR
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Date published: 2/2/2013


It's 19 degrees outside when men at a Caroline County church start loading wood into pickup trucks.

They're dressed for the frigid weather, in heavy fleece, flannel, overalls and thick gloves. Plus, these "lumberjacks," as they call themselves, are warmed by the fact that those who will receive the wood on this cold morning really need it.

"Within five to seven miles of here, we still have people with dirt floors and no indoor plumbing, and the only heat they get is from wood," said Ken Grier.

Fellow woodcutter and hauler Bruce Sharpe chimed in: "There are some pretty mean situations out there."

For 13 years, the lumberjacks at Wright's Chapel United Methodist Church in Ladysmith have been trying to keep a fire going for their neighbors. The effort is coordinated by Cleve Robeson, a 58-year-old who's the baby of the bunch.

Most of his fellow lumberjacks are retired and in their 60s or 70s, and a few have physical problems. Paul Lynch was born with spina bifida, but can operate the machine that splits wood.

Leroy Leger, 72, walks with a cane after a stroke two years ago, but still tosses chunks of wood into truck beds. He rides with Richard Coons, 75, the senior member of the group. Coons brings along a stepstool to help Leger get in and out of his truck.

Some of the men served in the military or law enforcement, others drove trucks and delivered mail, but all put their axes, mauls and brute strength to good use for the program that operates year-round.

The Caroline lumberjacks split wood in the spring and summer, then deliver truckloads from October to March. The program is totally volunteer; the church doesn't reimburse the men for the gas or equipment used.

Wright's Chapel is one of several churches in the Fredericksburg region with a wood ministry, though the Caroline group may be among the more prolific woodcutters.

Each Wednesday in winter, about eight to 10 members haul about 15 to 20 loads--each containing about half a cord of wood--to families in the area. Last February, the group reached a milestone when it delivered its 1,000th load of wood.

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"GOOD WORKS" is an occasional series about some of the missions churches do that go beyond ministering to spiritual needs. If your church is involved in a special effort to serve the community, please send a brief description of the project to jmar shall@freelancestar.com.