“Firewood not only warms the house, it warms the heart,” said Larry Henderson, describing the years he has spent giving away firewood to KP residents needing assistance to stay warm.
Larry and his wife, Annita, with help from their son Shane, have operated the Key Peninsula Firewood Bank for seven years, annually providing an average of 30 truckloads of firewood to low-income seniors, people with disabilities and veterans. Henderson said one year he was even able to provide 40 loads of firewood.
But the years have taken a toll and he is no longer able to do the work.
For a long time the firewood was cut and split by hand and delivered to KP residents for a suggested donation of $15 to cover fuel. He regularly delivered to Home, Longbranch, Vaughn and Key Center.
Only once did he go beyond his usual range up north past Lake Kathryn Village. “It’s hard to say no to people asking for help,” he said.
A woman called saying her furnace had quit and she had five children at home and needed to keep them warm. Henderson delivered a load of firewood to her and the children, and said it was very emotional.
Henderson typically provided one load to clients, but two loads for veterans. Volunteers from Key Peninsula churches often helped with the work of cutting, splitting and storing the firewood. He occasionally experienced theft from his storage area, but said that if somebody really needed something he would give it to them anyway.
“When you do something good, it will come back to you,” Henderson said. As an example, he described a man from his church, Vladimir, who had worked on the firewood bank with him at times and had recently purchased a chainsaw. The oiler wasn’t working, so he donated the saw to Henderson. Someone at his church made the repair and he has been using the saw ever since.
Henderson and his wife attend the KP Lutheran Church. “Our church motto is to help the community,” he said.
In 2015 the Greater Tacoma Community Foundation gave a $1,500 “Spark” grant to the KP Firewood Bank to buy a Club Cadet log splitter. He said it still takes a great deal of effort to roll a large log round onto the splitter and split it into manageable pieces that fit a fireplace or wood stove.
Before starting the firewood bank, Henderson experienced the need for heat himself during a cold winter after becoming disabled by an injury at his job as a warehouse worker in Fife. His disability income had not yet begun; he had used his savings, was on the verge of losing his home, and was out of firewood. A neighbor had a huge pile of firewood and offered some. Another neighbor, Dr. Jim Davis, loaned him a trailer to haul it.
The supply of wood for the firewood bank has never been a problem, Henderson said. Tree companies often offer him trees they have cut down. He said NW Tree Service has provided a tremendous amount of donations over the years.
He hopes someone new will take over the effort. He has a log splitter and limited inventory to offer another nonprofit group ready to take on the project. For more information call the KP Firewood Bank at 253-884-0102.