For more than 30 years, the Knights of Columbus have raised money for children’s charities by selling wood, and now they’re seeking more volunteers to help.
Every Wednesday and Saturday, the Knights of Columbus Council 4718 woodcutters group meets at a member’s residence on White Lake Road to split wood and prepare it for transport. On Wednesday, Sept. 8, they prepared three cords of wood. In 2020, they raised more than $17,000 and a section of the proceeds go to charities that help children.
“I just want to be supportive and help the community,” said Tom Brock of Fenton who’s been involved for more than three years. “We’re always looking for volunteers. Anyone who wants to help. Whether it’s splitting or cutting wood or delivering.”
The Knights of Columbus is run through St. John’s Catholic Church.
On average, these Knights, who range in age from 50s to 90s, prepare about three cords of wood a day. On Wednesday, Sept. 8, they sold five. A cord of wood sells for $60 or $75 if one of the Knights delivers it. They have teams for cutting trees, splitting the wood and delivery. They transport wood to customers in the Fenton, Linden and Fenton Township area.
All the wood is donated to the Knights. They often receive calls from people or businesses about fallen trees, and the Knights will take care of it. They receive calls after every storm.
“It’s all donated wood. We’ve had a storm recently, so we have plenty of wood,” said volunteer Bill Bastian. “Most of it is word of mouth. Once in a while, someone will stop here and say, ‘I got a tree, do you want it?’ If it’s close to a home or a power line or something, we won’t touch it. It’s too dangerous for us. We’re a bunch of old guys trying to make a buck for kids.”
He said spring and summer are the slow months, but more and more people are buying wood now.
“Very few people buy wood in the summer. By the time spring rolls around, we’re down to zip wood and nobody’s buying it,” he said. They expect the piles of wood to be bought fast as the weather cools.
Currently, they have more than 100 cords of wood on property owned by Tom Runyan, who’s been a part of the
program for more than 30 years. He said the goal of the program was to raise money, and most of the funds go to organizations that help children. One of those organizations is the Holy Cross Children’s Services, which helps children who have experienced abuse, neglect and/or deal with substance abuse.
Woodcutting operations occur year round. Volunteers occasionally bring their children, grandchildren or nieces and nephews to help.
“Looking behind the coats, hats, gloves and flannel shirts finds men who are cancer and multiple organ transplant survivors, heart attack and stroke victims, including (reportedly) Michigan’s longest known heart transplant recipient. That’s in addition to the more ‘usual’ pains of aging knees, hips and a multitude of joint/muscle/back issues that accompany senior-hood of the bulk of the members,” said Ray Barth, community director at the Knights of Columbus. “But each week, twice a week, they come together to do their part for their community as well as enjoy the brotherhood and camaraderie of their fellow Knights as well as get a physical workout while enjoying a few spectacular bake-treats on break courtesy of wives of some of the members.”
Brock, one of the oldest surviving heart transplant recipients in Michigan, said Runyan is very generous to let them use his property for this program. Runyan is a stroke survivor.
Bastian said this community supports charities and veterans “quite well.”
“We just want to thank the community for supporting us. It’s a very generous town,” he said.
Charities that benefit from the woodcutting program
• St. Vincent de Paul and other local food pantries in the Fenton-Linden area
• Members of the Fenton community in need of help with house repairs/projects or occasional financial assistance
• Coats for Kids, which provides winter coats, hats, gloves to those in need in Flint and Greater Genesee County through the Catholic Charities organization
• Annual Spelling Bee
• Annual Free Throw Contest
• St. John the Evangelist parish
• St. John’s Elementary school operations and student tuition assistance
• St. John parish Outreach, Right to Life and The Gabriel Project groups
How to get involved: