Cumberland Wood 'Bankquet' to let diners 'eat for heat'

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CUMBERLAND — Although admission to its Wood Bankquet (sic) on Saturday, Jan. 31, is free, the Cumberland Wood Bank hopes to raise fuel assistance funds from diners’ donations.

The bank, now in its eighth year, provides firewood to needy area families. Money the bank raises from selling wood to those who can afford it goes toward buying fuel for those in need who cannot burn wood.

The “Eat for Heat” dinner will be held at the Congregational Church of Cumberland, from 6-8:30 p.m. Pre-registration is available at eventbrite.com/e/annual-cumberland-wood-bankquet-tickets-14458059445. Those who pre-register will be entered in a drawing for a two-person gourmet dinner from Mark Fortin of the Cumberland Food Stop.

A buffet dinner will be offered Saturday, along with potluck desserts. An update on the Wood Bank’s work will include a video showing the organization’s equipment in action. Randy Judkins will provide New Vaudeville entertainment.

Wook Bank volunteer Brian Sites said the evening is a way of thanking the bank’s volunteers, while raising money for fuel assistance.

The Wood Bank continues to grow, with more than 50 requests for wood this year and more than 42 cords of wood processed, according to Sites. The organization has also raised more than $14,000 for fuel assistance.

All donations go to residents of Cumberland, North Yarmouth and surrounding town, Sites said, noting that 90 percent go to people outside of the church community.

“This is a very community-focused venture,” he said.

The Wood Bank has about 40 active volunteers, the majority of whom are not affiliated with the church, according to Sites.

The organization has partnered with the Small Woodland Owners Association of Maine, or SWOAM, and the University of Maine’s forestry program, to help other communities establish their own wood banks, Sites said.

“We are the second-largest known wood bank in all of New England,” he said. “… We’re 100 percent voluntary, and we get all of our support through private donors.”

With enough private donations raised, and some grants in hand, the bank was able to purchase a new dump trailer for hauling wood, and a wood processor, Sites said.

“I see this thing just continuing to grow,” he said. “The demand’s out there for the wood, as well as for the (fuel) assistance.”

Those interested in volunteering, donating wood, or buying wood can reach Bruce Wildes, who chairs the committee that collects, processes and delivers the wood, at 370-8210 or bruce@lmcgroup.biz. People in need can call Diane Bennekamper, pastor of the Cumberland Congregational Church, at 829-3419.

Log onto facebook.com/CumberlandWoodBank for more information.

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or alear@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @learics.

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A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.