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Job Corps students help the elderly stay warm this winter

Two men chopping wood with chainsaw
Job Corps student Marvin Smith utilizing his chainsaw training under supervision of his instructor Larry Blyth in Jackson County, North Carolina on Sept. 27, 2019. USDA Forest Service Photo by Birdie Powell.

NORTH CAROLINA – As winter quickly approaches, many elders find themselves looking for an answer to an old familiar question: “How will I stay warm this winter?” Thanks to Oconaluftee Job Civilian Conservation Corps students of the Fire Fighting & Forest Conservation Trade, over 100 low income seniors will not have to worry about how to stay warm this winter. On Sept. 27th, the students put their skill set into action to assist with Project C.A.R.E. (Community Action to Reach the Elderly) in Jackson County, North Carolina.

Project C.A.R.E. is a program that serves the needs of the elder population. One important program with C.A.R.E. is Project F.I.R.E. (Fuel Intervention for Rural Elderly). Project F.I.R.E provides firewood to low income seniors who depend on firewood as their main source of warmth. According to the Jackson County’s Department on Aging website, around 200 loads of wood are delivered each year with the help of volunteers. 

"I feel good that we [were] able to help so many people,” says Kinston Hunt, Forestry Conservation Trade Student. “You don't really think about how working one day would turn into helping so many people.”

Oconaluftee students saw a place where they could give to help out and fill a need that most may never think about.  Gathering enough wood for heat and cooking is still a way of life for citizens of North Carolina.

“Unfortunately, we still see medication and food rationing among our elderly because they need that money to keep warm. It’s an issue that no one should have,” says Leonard Holden, C.A.R.E coordinator at Jackson County Department on Aging.
 “I wished the program was able to help more than what it does, because people [must] make a choice about staying warm or getting their medication,” says Desmond Williams, Forestry Conservation Trade Student. 

Oconaluftee students harvested, cut and split 12.5 tons of firewood; enough to supply over 50 loads of wood. “All the students and staff gave us a large effort to do this, not a dry shirt on the site,” says Holden. “I’ve been in the trade for most of my working life and I was impressed with the work ethic, professionalism and attention to detail and work place safety.”

Oconaluftee’s Forest Conservation Trade has been asked to return each time JCDOA has a day to harvest firewood, a call that the students are ready to answer. To learn more about Project C.A.R.E/F.I.R.E, visit their website or to volunteer this winter call JCDOA at 828-631-8040

Man getting ready to cut some wook
Job Corps student Marvin Smith carrying equipment to worksite in Jackson County, North Carolina on Sept. 27, 2019. USDA Forest Service Photo by Birdie Powell.
Group of workers, outside, chopping wood
Job Corps student Brandon Tucker demos the wood splitter to his peers, Tyler Byrd, Mahalia Timothy and Cameron Schick in Jackson County, North Carolina on Sept. 27, 2019. USDA Forest Service Photo by Birdie Powell.
Gathred firewood outside of log cabin
12.5 tons of firewood produced by Oconaluftee JCCCC students in Jackson County, North Carolina on Sept. 27, 2019. Photo courtesy of Leonard Holden.