Senior Firewood Program a win-win for the community

Since 1979, Gold Country Senior Services has provided firewood to low-income seniors in Nevada County through the Senior Firewood program.  This essential program, one of the last of its kind in California, delivers much-needed firewood to our area’s most vulnerable population while helping to reduce the dangerous fuel load in our community.

Last year, 30 dedicated volunteers worked throughout the year to cut, split, and deliver firewood to 160 low income seniors with an average age of 72, including 30 veterans, in Western Nevada County.  

“Our Senior Firewood Program can be a lifeline,” explained executive director Janeth Marroletti. “Seniors in rural communities such as Nevada County still depend on firewood to heat their homes. Cutting and splitting the wood may exceed their capabilities, and purchasing wood may exceed their budgets. We’re able to offer a solution to help them heat their homes during the winter months.”

While it may be hot right now, pretty soon the temperatures will drop.  Even if seniors do have heaters in their homes, those run on electricity, which has become more and more costly even for those who are on reduced price plans.  Also, we are currently dealing with PG&E’s Public Safety Power Shutdown (PSPS) events due to fire danger, which is made more severe by the amount of dead and dying trees that surround our community.  There is a way to mitigate both of these potential disasters; the Senior Firewood program.

“It’s not just about the seniors receiving the firewood; we have a great amount of people who cannot afford to have a tree removed, and we have a long waiting list of 160 families that want to donate their trees to the program,” Marroletti said.  “This program serves two fronts: making sure that seniors remain warm at home during the winter and that they get the assistance that they need, but also helping the community with tree removal when they cannot afford it, therefore reducing fire danger.”

While the program is very effective, it could be much more so with additional funding and volunteers.  Although volunteers by definition are unpaid (except in personal satisfaction), Gold Country Senior Services does incur expenses to run the program, and each volunteer can only do so much.  The agency pays mileage, and they just purchased a $10,000 wood splitter, which they had previously borrowed.  Many tree companies drop off wood to be used for the program, but currently the agency is only able to remove wood from homes that are close by with easy access. 

As our local population continues to age and the fire danger increases, the Senior Firewood program is only going to be more critical in the coming years.  “Seniors and the threat of fire is here to stay. This is a vital program to assist in the health of our senior population” Marroletti said.  “We have seniors that are frail, our population is aging, and the need for firewood continues to increase in our rural community, and unless we have a plan B for that and reducing fuel loads, the senior firewood program will remain a vital program for this community.”

To learn more about the program, or to donate, volunteer, or sign up to receive firewood, visit goldcountryservices.org/senior-firewood-program.

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