Camas Knights keep neighbors warm with donated firewood

  • Written by Morningstar Stevenson
  • Published in Local
Knights of Columbus members Tom Steele, right, and Bill Schmid (in red hoodie) split rounds of firewood while a member of Boy Scout Troop 565 gathers the pieces for stacking. Both groups are from St. Thomas Aquinas Parish in Camas. Photo: John Hynds Knights of Columbus members Tom Steele, right, and Bill Schmid (in red hoodie) split rounds of firewood while a member of Boy Scout Troop 565 gathers the pieces for stacking. Both groups are from St. Thomas Aquinas Parish in Camas. Photo: John Hynds

CAMAS – During this winter’s icy weather, Karen Ferguson kept her home warm — and cut her heating costs — with firewood donated by the Knights of Columbus at her parish, St. Thomas Aquinas in Camas.

Ferguson, 74, supplements her Social Security payments by running an alterations business out of her garage. As long as there is no burn ban in effect, Ferguson can turn her furnace off and use her wood stove to heat her home. So the free firewood the Knights have cut and delivered to her driveway every summer for the past eight years makes a big difference in her budget.

“Without them, I’d be in trouble,” Ferguson said. “They are really a godsend for this parish.”

Each winter, 30-35 households within a 15-mile radius of St. Thomas receive a firewood delivery from the “wood cut” program of Knights of Columbus Father Blanchet Council 2999. The program is open to anyone in need, and typically provides each household a cord of wood — a savings of about $200.

The program was started about 30 years ago by Al Schmid, a St. Thomas Knight who still coordinates the wood-cutting effort and delivers the wood to seniors like Ferguson and other people with limited incomes.

wood cutting
A volunteer from Boy Scout Troop 565 stacks wood to be stored until it’s delivered to residents in need by the Knights of Columbus at St. Thomas Aquinas Parish in Camas. The scout troop is sponsored by the Knights. Photo: John Hynds

It all starts with downed trees, delivered throughout the year to Schmid’s wood-cutting site by maintenance crews from Clark County and the city of Camas. He’s been running the program so long, Schmid said, that the county and city started coming to him after hearing about it.

On the last Saturday of every month, 15-20 Knights arrive at the Camas-area site to cut the trees into rounds of 16-22 inches high. The rounds are split into quarters or eighths to accommodate the width of a fireplace or wood-burning stove.

About three years ago, members of Boy Scout Troop 565 (chartered by the St. Thomas Aquinas Knights) began helping out several times a year. The scouts, ages 14-17, use the electric splitter and do “a lot of stacking,” said TJ Marrs, a Knight and one of the troop leaders.

The scouts know they are providing wood for those who cannot afford high heating bills, Marrs said, and learn firsthand the hard work involved in helping out.

Grand Knight John Hynds has been involved in the wood-cutting effort since 2010, partly to be an example to his own children. “Kids need to see people care for the less fortunate without expecting anything in return,” he said.

In addition to supplying manpower for the program, the Knights pay for Schmid’s gas and repairs to his well-used, dump-bed pickup. “The truck looks like it’s a lot of masking tape holding it together,” Hynds said, “but it works.”

Besides helping parishioners like Ferguson, the Knights receive referrals of those in need from local aid organizations and the parish’s Society of St. Vincent de Paul conference.

“We are about charity and being called to give,” Hynds said. “That’s just Knights 101.”