News Feature

Surry
Originally published in The Weekly Packet, January 12, 2023
Heating homes for those in need
DownEast Wood Bank provides for second winter

Downeast Wood Bank, Surry

From left, Tony Aman, Ken Burgess and Tom Matthews, who run the Downeast Wood Bank, stand with the wood splitter they recently purchased with grant money.

Photo by Maggie White Order prints of selected PBP photos.

by Maggie White

“Thank you for coming. We’ve been watching you closely and you are all hired! You can come every week,” said Tom Matthews to the group of 12 volunteers who showed up to the DownEast Wood Bank on the morning of Saturday, January 8, to chop, split, stack and load wood. Matthews, along with Ken Burgess and Tony Aman, spearheads the wood bank, an all-volunteer effort that works on the model of a food bank (providing wood as opposed to food to those in need).

Established in the fall of 2021, the DownEast Wood Bank works in conjunction with Blue Hill Heritage Trust—their site is on BHHT’s Meadowbrook Forest property in Surry—and is a resource whereby residents in six surrounding towns can to get up to one-third cord of seasoned firewood for home heating.

“No questions asked,” said Aman, by way of acknowledging the group’s sensitivity to the privacy of those using their services. In addition to Surry, the wood bank serves Blue Hill, Brooklin, Brooksville, Penobscot and Sedgwick.

Wood is available on an appointment basis and, though they prefer people to pick up on site, they will deliver directly to homes. Since they field calls from towns outside of the areas they serve (they regularly receive requests from Bucksport and Ellsworth, according to Aman), he said, “We’re eager to meet with other towns or volunteer organizations to help them get started. It’s not that hard.”

Aman was also integral in setting up Castine’s Wood Bank, now in its sixth year.

According to Aman, the DownEast Wood Bank is itself growing to the point where they will soon be looking to set themselves up as a nonprofit 501(c)(3) corporation with a board for governance and the ability to secure grants on their own. For now, they work under BHHT where Conservation Forester and Lands Manager Sandy Walczyk recently helped Matthews and Burgess earn a grant that afforded them a new wood splitter and other essential equipment.

“They have been super to work with,” said Matthews. “Blue Hill Heritage Trust has made everything easy.”

The grant money had to be used within a discrete timeframe, but the wood bank has ongoing needs. For example, only about 50 percent of the wood is donated; they have ongoing operating costs, and they are currently in need of a structure to protect the stacked wood.

Anyone looking to donate to the DownEast Wood Bank can send a check made out to Blue Hill Heritage Trust (with “DownEast Wood Bank” specified in the memo section) to: DownEast Wood Bank, 54 Frost Lane, Surry, ME 04684. People can also contact BHHT directly at 374-5118.

Anyone looking to volunteer or who has tree-length hardwood donations should send an email to woodbankerme@gmail.com, call Tom Matthews at 667-4392 or Ken Burgess at 374-2061, or find them on Facebook.

Towns are encouraged to send referrals of people who might be experiencing a heating crisis this winter, and residents of the six served towns can call or email directly to make an appointment.