Every Wednesday, Friday and Saturday morning, Gene O’Neil pulls in behind Brad’s Chevy car dealership in Cottage Grove and gets to work.
He’s been doing it for 15 years — sometimes with help and sometimes without. Since he’s retired, he’s been doing it more but the goal has been the same: collect and split enough wood to sell 40 cords to fund scholarships for local students at Cottage Grove High School and Kennedy High School.
The gated space behind Brad’s was donated to the Cottage Grove Bohemia Sunrisers Kiwanis Club by the car lot and most of the wood piled and waiting to be split has been too. O’Neil hasn’t always been the brawn behind the project but he has been part of the Kiwanis organization for years.
The Bohemia Sunrisers Kiwanis Club supports both local scholarships and Special Olympics in Cottage Grove and Creswell.
On an early morning last week, he was hard at work splitting and loading a five-load order with another five-load order waiting right behind it.
“Our goal is to sell 40 cords and give 10 cords to Community Sharing,” O’Neil said of the local food pantry that helps low-income and homeless individuals with basic needs. “About half of the cords are committed before I even start in the spring.”
By Labor Day, O’Neil likes to have all the wood for the coming winter split and delivered; a feat that takes months to achieve.
One cord of wood takes 12 hours of labor from collection to delivery. The new trailer Kiwanis purchased has made the job easier — it tilts, eliminating the need to bend over the sides to unload the cords of wood.
The latest pile waiting to be split is made up of remnants from a tree Smith Lund Mills Funeral Chapel cut down in its parking lot. Kiwanis members collected the tree and now, O’Neil will split it.
It’s how it works most of the time. People call Kiwanis and offer the group the opportunity to cut up and haul away a tree that has fallen in their yard. It counts as a tax deduction and eliminates the need for Kiwanis to cut trees down which cuts the group’s liability.
Cords range between $160 and $200 including delivery, with the money going to fund scholarships ranging between $250 and $1,000.
While Kiwanis is always happy to have customers, according to O’Neil, his hands are full at the wood lot now and what’s needed are volunteer hours.
To volunteer at the wood lot, contact O’Neil at 541-520-2818.