Local expertise shared for Dunedin Vinnies project

The billet wood logs awaiting cutting and splitting. Mercy Chapel and St Patrick’s Basilica are in the background.

Developing effective and efficient ways of providing for the needs for the less fortunate in society often involves a bit of ingenuity, and the willing co-operation of volunteers providing their expertise to make it happen.

Such is the case in a project promoted by the St Vincent de Paul group in south Dunedin, in support of Catholic Social Services. The aim is to provide firewood to those who need it during the winter months, so that their homes are heated, and the cost is not a hurdle.

A few years ago, the New Zealand Government began to offer a special energy supplement during the winter months to those receiving National Superannuation. Catholic Social Services suggested that, if some Mercy Parish members did not need the supplement, then that money could be donated to be put to use in a practical way. So donated money was then used to buy trailer-loads of firewood, which could be delivered to those needing that assistance.

From that original concept, the project has evolved over the last couple of years. A parishioner who has connections to local forestry blocks has been able to source some logs that had no commercial use. This so-called billet wood is either damaged or imperfect, and would be cast aside and left to rot. Some of these logs have been delivered to the yard near St Patrick’s Basilica in south Dunedin.

Besides the forestry block source, there have been other trees supplied this last year. Some trees had to be cut down at Mosgiel where the new retirement houses for priests were to be built in the grounds of the Holy Cross Centre. There was also some wood from trees cut down at St Peter Chanel in Green Island, and from a Mercy parishioner’s house in Waverley.

A team of parish volunteers, co-ordinated by Gerry O’Farrell, gather at the yard with chainsaws and log-splitters to turn the logs into suitable-sized firewood.

Another small team of pupils from Kavanagh College then help stack the cut wood along a fence line in the yard to dry for nearly a year, ready for distribution to those in need during the following winter months.

So a very practical project has evolved over recent years, making use of volunteers with suitable connections, skills and machinery to provide a much-needed solution to help keep people warm who need it most.

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