Cumberland Woodbank hopes to expand volunteer base

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NORTH YARMOUTH — Brian Sites hopes the sixth annual Cumberland “Wood Bankquet” he’s organizing will help bring in some younger volunteers.

The fundraiser will be held at the Congregational Church in Cumberland, 282 Main St., at 5:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 20. The free buffet dinner is open to anyone, but donations are encouraged; proceeds support the Cumberland Woodbank’s capital fund.

The woodbank – which in 2016 moved from the Cumberland Public Works facility to 46 Walnut Hill Parkway in North Yarmouth – has provided fuel assistance for 10 years. The nonprofit organization delivers firewood to paying customers, and to those in need who can burn wood for heat. Funds raised from firewood sales pay for fuel for those who cannot burn wood.

Sites, a North Yarmouth resident and Woodbank volunteer who is organizing the Bankquet, said in an interview Jan. 5 that he hopes the event will generate more interest from a younger age group, broadening the organization’s spectrum of volunteers.

Sites plans to approach younger families about having their children help out at the event. “My daughters love to serve and clean up plates,” he said.

The woodbank’s capital fund helps maintain and purchase equipment. The organization’s goal is to have $20,000 in the fund, but it now has about half that amount. It hopes to raise $5,000 at this month’s event.

“(It) boils down to sustainability,” Sites said. “Raising funds to sustainably maintain our equipment, as well as introducing what we do to potential new volunteers and donors so that we have a sustainable pool of committed people into the future.”

Bill Marinelli, a retired veteran who once was homeless, will provide music at the event. “He’s a really interesting storyteller/musician,” Sites said. “He plays a whole broad spectrum based on whoever’s in the room.”

There will also be door prizes and a raffle, with items including a new chainsaw, a custom-made picnic table, Stihl helmet and chaps, and other items donated by area businesses.

Those who register before the event at http://bit.ly/2CGPgyz will receive an extra door-prize entry.

More information can be found at woodbank.org.

Volunteers in 2017 delivered 76 cords of wood to 45 homes, and raised $17,200 toward fuel assistance, according to woodbank President Dave Carlson.

When it sought donations of trees felled by last October’s wind and rain storm, the woodbank received 50 offers, but lacked the ability to collect wood from donors.

While the woodbank has a strong workforce to cut, split and deliver wood, it lacks a volunteer base to pick up those donations throughout the year, Carlson noted, adding that donors were able to respond to about 30 percent of those offers, using their own trucks or a tree service.

By getting the word out about the organization’s need for manpower, “I … hope to obtain new ideas and alternatives to get donation wood picked up and delivered to our woodlot,” Carlson explained.

The Woodbank’s email database has 102 volunteers, but fewer show up regularly to organization events, Sites said.

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

The stock may currently be covered by snow, but the Cumberland Woodbank is gearing up for its 2018 season by holding the sixth annual “Wood Bankquet.” Organized by Brian Sites, the fundraiser is scheduled for Saturday, Jan. 20.

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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.