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How these Goochlanders are warming hearts and homes with chainsaws

Posted at 11:30 AM, Mar 22, 2024

GOOCHLAND COUNTY, Va.-- On a spring morning at an old woodyard in eastern Goochland County, the soft chirp of the birds is masked by the roar of a chainsaw.

"We call ourselves the Woodchuckers because we chuck wood and throw it in the back of pickup trucks," explained Goochland Rotary president Vernon Fleming.

Every Saturday October through April, Fleming is joined for some good old fashioned exercise by fellow rotary members and volunteers, young and old.

"We've got an 89-year-old splitting wood behind me," said Fleming. "We've got an 18-year-old college freshman who's here splitting wood.”

And that’s not just any 18-year-old. That's Fleming's daughter.

Nevaeh Fleming has chosen to spend her spring break on a splitter, surrounded by dust.

"It really calms me," she smiled.

Working hard and helping others are two values that have been ingrained in her from a young age.

"As a family, it just brings us closer together," Neveah shared. "It's just a lot of people that you see in need.”

The Flemings' efforts assist more than 30 families who rely on this oak, cedar and maple to heat their homes.

"Many of us can just turn on the thermostat and enjoy the comfort," said Fleming. "Others have to get wood, and it's very difficult to do on a limited budget to have to buy it."

"We try to market it out to the community to say, hey, we've got this kind of assistance available if you need it," explained Sally Graham, executive director of Goochland Cares.

The nonprofit connects the Rotarian Woodchuckers to people who use firewood as their primary heating source.

"In a rural county, I think a lot of it's about trust, and a lot of its word of mouth," said Graham.

Goochland Cares and the Woodchuckers have earned the trust of 69-year-old Lewis Waddy.

"Goochland Cares has been a friend of mine," said an emotional Waddy.

He and his 26-year-old son Clarence drive to the woodyard regularly to pick up their pile.

"When I come in and blow the whistle, they will throw wood on the truck all the way down to the Goochland Courthouse," he laughed.

Mornings are cold and bills are tight, but Waddy finds warmth with the Woodchuckers.

"They’re a lifeguard," said Waddy. "I budget like everybody else but when it comes down to guys giving it their all out here, and if you require to get it, why not?”

This team of volunteer lumberjacks has become part of Waddy’s family.

"These guys are good," he shared. "It touches my heart."

In this rural county, it’s all about family and community.

"We do love Goochland," laughed Fleming. "We love serving.

The Goochland Rotary Woodchuckers also sell some of the wood to community members who can afford it at a reasonable cost, and that money is all donated back to other nonprofit organizations in the county.

Goochland Cares says even if you think your income might be too high to qualify for assistance, please reach out using this link: https://goochlandcares.org/.

They have 13 programs from heating and cooling assistance to food to healthcare, all aimed at helping make their county and its people better.

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