“In 2015, about 12.5 million, or 11% of all U.S households, used wood as an energy source, mostly for space heating, and 3.5 million of those households, mainly in rural areas, used wood as the main heating fuel,” – U.S. Energy Information Administration .
It all started as a charitable thought to help a few people in his neighborhood who might need help sourcing wood for heat that winter. That’s why this 2018 story is so touching. It may be a few years old, but it’s worth retelling. This world needs a little good news infusion, and what better way than remembering such a selfless deed.
Shane McDaniel, a single father of six who lived with his family in Lake Stevens, Washington, understood what it meant first-hand to be in desperate need of a high-priced commodity. With his large family, understandably, he has had his fair share of budget constraints. Wood is expensive in Lake Stevens. A cord of wood dimensioned 4ft by 8ft by 4ft goes for $400. McDaniel and his twin sons, Henry and Harrison, spent several months chopping up and seasoning 40 cords of their own wood, and when they finished, they had enough pieces to fill up about 80 pick-up trucks.
The true communal spirit
For the first time in 10 years, 47-year-old Shane logged into his Facebook account to make the special announcement . He uploaded photos of himself and his boys standing together with saws and axes, surrounded by countless, high-rising, piles of wood. He captioned the photo, “IF YOU ARE IN NEED OF FIREWOOD AND CANNOT AFFORD IT, PLEASE PM ME! No one goes cold in our hood this holiday season.”
In his lengthy post, he let his friends know that they were welcome to make requests for free wood to be delivered to their homes. He pleaded with people who had spare wood to donate and help keep their neighborhood warm as the frigid winter temperatures approached. Desperate to keep the less-privileged warm, he wrote:
“We had our first big freeze now and that’s why this is so important. If you know someone who BURNS WOOD, and they’re looking at a cold house this holiday season; maybe someone elderly or with small children in the house…then please help us help them.”
The McDaniels had split up so much wood that they ran out of space to store them. Everything was to be given away free of charge in a selfless display of the true communal spirit. Shane McDaniel wasn’t expecting that many requests to be made through Facebook. He’d been away for over a decade, so he had no idea how influential and far-reaching social media could be.
He went viral in a few days, with people from his community and beyond requesting for free wood to be delivered to them. People from all over the world sent him messages to show their appreciation for his incredible service to humanity and some requested to volunteer to help chop wood. The handsome McDaniels even received some marriage proposals!
Starting November and all through the winter, the McDaniels distributed free wood to hundreds of people in their community and the neighboring towns. They focused on the people who truly couldn’t afford to purchase enough wood to keep their homes warm in the biting cold.
Bonding over kindness and good values
Speaking to the Washington Post, the guys admitted that although the wood splitting exercise hadn’t been easy on them, it gave them a chance to connect . Shane and his late father had bonded over wood-splitting, so now, the 21-year-olds have been made a part of the McDaniel’s tradition as well.
“I started out wanting to connect with my father, and at the end, I thought he was yelling at me,” Harrison McDaniel said. “It was so much cutting, so much splitting.” The young lad explained that he didn’t know so many people still burned wood for heat in these modern times. People who could afford the wood would drive over to their innumerable piles and ask for a price.
“We politely told them none of it was for sale, and they’d look at us like we were crazy,” he said.
According to the guys, they receive all kinds of reactions from people when they go over to deliver free wood. Shane explains that a majority of the benefactors would break down in gratitude and not even try to hold their tears back. They receive a lot of bear hugs and thankful kisses, and this is what keeps them going. However, not everyone knows how to be nice, and the rude ones do not discourage or upset them.
“Some aren’t even friendly. It’s just not in them. They are mad at the world and mad that they had to ask for help,” he said. “They just have no other option than freezing.” And when they receive free wood from the kind strangers, “Some still just say, ‘thanks … put it over there’ and walk back in their house and never say another word or even come back out. But I’m okay with that. Giving is the reward — it has nothing to do with how well it’s received, but it’s about how much it’s needed.”
The world needs more people like Shane and his boys.
Hearts filled with gratitude
42-year-old Abby Valentine was worried her young children may get sick from sleeping without heat in their old, cold home. She’s a disabled woman who depends on her disability benefits to keep her home running. Life became much harder ever since her first child was killed in an accident by a drunk driver in April 2018. She was one of the people who couldn’t afford wood and would have had to rack up quite the electricity bill to use her heating system, an expense she knew she couldn’t afford.
“My home is really old and very cold,” said Valentine, who lives in Seattle. “With the help of the wood for my fireplace, we can cut back on using the heat. I try to save as much as I can, but if my home is way too cold I have to use it because I don’t want my kids getting sick.”
There are many more people like Abby indebted to the McDaniels. The requests were so many that had to seek donations from other people around the community. As more poured into his Facebook inbox, he set up a local station at his beer pub and recruited his manager to respond to the messages.
Shane plans to hit a higher number this year, targeting a minimum of 100 cords of wood. With more volunteers to help with the daunting task of splitting, they should have enough wood for the needy homes ready before winter. They plan to distribute around Lake Stevens and in other nearby communities. They’ve already managed to cut up a good number of cords this year, and they don’t plan to stop until there’s enough for everyone who will need them.
“I had no intention of doing this every year,” Shane McDaniel said. “But read through my messages, and you’ll understand.”
Shane McDaniel deserves to be honored with a Key to the City, which I’m certain he’ll turn down because he believes his reward lies in the smiles, hugs, and joy from the people he lends a much-needed hand.