Physiological needs are the basic human needs that should be met first. They include food, water, breathing, sleep, and shelter from the elements. Some might phrase shelter from the elements as warmth. There are a lot of volunteer opportunities geared towards meeting the food and water portion of these physiological needs, but on a Saturday in Raleigh I worked with an organization that was geared towards helping individuals meet their basic need for shelter from the elements. More specifically…warmth.

I often try to keep an open mind going in to my volunteer events and enjoy hearing about the organization directly from the people involved, so I had just a general idea of what we would be doing when I pulled up. As soon as I pulled on to the property where we would be working, I noticed my Sentra was going to be out of place. The area is located behind a recycling center where they have a plot of land that houses most of the operation. That operation involves chopping wood and getting it into trucks to deliver to homes of individuals in need that have gone through an application process. The beat up dirt road that took me to the operation was lined with mostly trucks by the time I got there.

Most of the folks there had arrived well before the actual start time and already had a couple of trucks filled with wood. I looked around and walked up with a couple others who looked almost as out of place as me. We found Denise and she took a quick assessment of where we would fit in with the other volunteers. Not showing up with a truck or work gloves must have ruled me out of operating one of the electric wood splitters. As she walked us back to the box of extra gloves, we passed the manual splitters and she noticed this caught our eyes. As much as I wanted to just swing an axe around this morning, I decided I should focus on an area where I could MAKE AN IMPACT. Splitting two pieces of wood an hour probably wasn’t the clip they were looking for this morning.

Others undoubtedly more qualified to use the wood splitter

I hopped in line loading up the vehicles with the wood that was already split. All the wood they provide to the families is donated, so it can come in various forms. There were a number of piles that were already split that just needed to be loaded in the back of a vehicle. Surprisingly, the Sentra wasn’t the first choice of vehicles, so I helped load up a few of the trucks that were more suitable for the load. The work gloves provided were essential. Although not swinging an axe, I realized my day’s workout would come this morning carrying firewood.

After a few of the trucks were loaded, assignments were being handed out. I hopped in the truck with another Matt as we headed out to deliver the wood to a family. He handed me the google map directions…yes, they were printed out. My phone was dead in the left behind Sentra, so we were going to do this old school. It was refreshing. Although I was disappointed in not being able to take pictures of the experience, I knew that my phone was certainly not a physiological need and I could live without for a few hours. The ride back to my house afterwards was also exciting as I had to work entirely from memory backtracking the ride there.

Who am I kidding…the Sentra is never out of place.

I would deliver wood to two houses with Matt and Blake that day. The car rides allowed me to get to know the volunteers at Warmth for Wake. Matt had been working for the Coast Guard for nearly his entire life. He truly enjoyed his job…although like anybody he said there are both good and bad days. Warmth for Wake was rewarding for him because it let him volunteer outside in the open air and allowed him to actually come in to contact with those who were benefiting. Blake was a student at North Carolina State and was an Agricultural major. He had certainly split more wood in his life already than I probably will in my entire life. He was involved through an agricultural fraternity at NC State. As someone who also enjoyed being outdoors and owned a truck, this was an opportunity to give back in a meaningful way that fit well with his talents and interests.

It would take me years to split this much wood…

At the houses, we unloaded and stacked the wood wherever we could find some space. The interaction was limited with the families as they generally thanked us and stayed inside as we unloaded. One child did come outside eager to help us unload. Matt picked out some of the smaller, smoother logs that would not result in splinters for the young child to help us out. After unloading, we headed back to the site to see if any more needed to be done.

Although we certainly didn’t walk into a forest, cut down a tree, chop it up, drive to someone’s home, and place that log in the furnace, Warmth for Wake comes pretty close. In one morning, I had seen the process from Forest to Furnace almost executed to perfection. The team was working hard when I arrived and Denise was still hanging around until the last people returned to make sure all the deliveries went smoothly and thank us as we went on our way. It was truly a rewarding experience to be outside and see your actions MAKING AN IMPACT in the community almost immediately.