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Orange hopes to launch ‘firewood bank’

ORANGE — Town officials are partnering with the state Department of Conservation and Resources in hopes of launching the first “firewood bank” in Massachusetts.

A firewood bank works somewhat like a fuel-assistance program, providing winter fuel for residents with wood-burning stoves. Income-eligible residents who cannot afford fuel for the winter are able to take wood for free.

Town Economic Development Director Kevin Kennedy said that he and a representative from DCR identified a small piece of town-owned land beside the Armory that would be an ideal site for the project. The lot is directly across the street from the Food Pantry.

Residents who are eligible for the wood will need to be on some kind of assistance, such as food stamps or WIC, and can access the wood-bank after picking up food at the pantry.

Kevin Kennedy said that other states have wood-banks, but he knows of no towns yet in Massachusetts that have initiated such a program.

He said he was inspired to initiate the program because “we want to be a pace-setter in the region, but also for the people of Orange. … In these times, many people are having a hard time heating their homes.”

Kennedy said that Department of Conservation submitted a grant to help jump-start the project.

Whether or not the grant is awarded, Kennedy said he would like to get the project up and running as he believes there are many assets Orange has that can make it work. According to Kennedy, the town has good sources of free wood, a strong working relationship with agencies that can potentially split it, such as the community service project operated by the Franklin County Sheriff’s Department, and an unused corner of town-owned land to store it until needed.

“I think this is a great idea that doesn’t require a ton of capital,” he said. Kennedy added that donations of free wood by residents and businesses would also be welcome once the wood bank is established.

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