Project Spotlight: W.A.R.M.
Richmond resident Lou Wilson was both distressed and inspired, several years ago, as he watched a news segment about a single mother burning some of her clothes to warm her children. Feeling there must be some way to help her and others with similar burdens, he began cutting, splitting and delivering firewood to the needy in October of 1976. As the community became aware of his efforts, the demand increased. To meet the growing need, he sought the cooperation of other organizations. Project W.A.R.M. is now a joint effort among Lou, the City of Richmond, The Salvation Army, the Richmond and Tuckahoe Jaycees. Richmond and Tuckahoe Jaycees joined the effort in 1989.
Lou is the project mentor and serves as the liaison between the Jaycees, the City of Richmond and other agencies involved. He ensures an ample supply of wood is available for splitting and stockpiling. Requests for additional materials and maintenance are routed through him. Familiar with all relevant contacts among the partners, he is available to intercede, when necessary, on the project’s behalf.
The City of Richmond provides a woodlot for work and storage, two hydraulic splitters, a dispatching shed and lighting for night splitting. Richmond’s Port Authority provided an equipment storage building. The Department of Public Works, through its Urban Forestry Division, delivers tree trunks (from city parks and streets) to the woodlot and saws them into lengths suitable for splitting. The Jaycees split and stockpile firewood during spring, summer and fall then deliver it, throughout the winter, to families identified by The Salvation Army. Woodlot and mechanical maintenance as well as gasoline for the log splitters are provided by the Urban Forestry Division and coordinated by Lou, who also recently acquired a third splitter.
The Salvation Army receives, manages and verifies applications from citizens requesting firewood. A newly installed database enables them to maintain and track all pertinent records and activities. By virtue of its input, the database automatically produces a delivery list each week that is e-mailed to the Project W.A.R.M. committee members of the two chapters. The Chairpersons for each chapter coordinate (collectively) organization and implementation of the delivery and splitting schedules.
The first year of the Richmond Jaycees participation, Project W.A.R.M. won the Jaycee International Award for “Best Project in Humanitarian Assistance Undertaken Within A Country”. It also won them “Best Project of the Year” at the Virginia State level. During the 2002-2003 heating season, Project W.A.R.M. made a record breaking 435 deliveries of firewood between November 2002 and March 2003. (Previous record—407 in 1996). Each delivery is the equivalent of a level loaded six feet bed pick-up truck. Weekly deliveries have been consistent regardless of weather or holiday calendar. This project routinely involves well over 50 members from the participating Jaycee chapters, averaging 762 volunteer hours, invested over the course of a calendar year.
Project W.A.R.M. continues in its success due to the dedication of its Founder, The Salvation Army, the City of Richmond’s ongoing commitment to it and the many Jaycees who, without regard to challenging weather conditions, consistently and unselfishly give of themselves to provide a measure of warmth and comfort to the less fortunate citizens of this community.
Project W.A.R.M. is held every Saturday from 9:00 AM until noon during delivery months (through March), and then switches to one weekday evening/week for off-season splitting.
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