On a cold, rainy morning last week, Bill Garrabrant sat on a white folding chair in his garage and chopped scrap wood into kindling.
It wasn’t destined for his fireplace though.
Instead, Garrabrant is hoping to raise money for Warmth for Wake, a seasonal energy assistance program, by selling boxes of the kindling.
The effort is a revival of a project he started more than a decade ago, when he collected and delivered firewood to friends and acquaintances. His efforts earned him a profile as a Tar Heel of the Week by The News & Observer on Dec. 7, 2003. The donations he received for the service all went to Warmth for Wake – in 2003, he had raised more than $1,500 – but the project eventually tapered off.
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“I got old,” laughs Garrabrant, who is 82. However, he decided earlier this year to give it another try. Even if he raised less money, it still would be worth it. And at the very least, he knew he would enjoy it.
“I do think it has something to do with keeping you young,” said Garrabrant, who has lived in Raleigh with his wife, Lou, since the early 1960s. Garrabrant grew up in Wilmington, graduated from N.C. State University and eventually started a promotional products company. He still keeps a hand in the business from his home office.
For this year’s project, Garrabrant is working on a smaller scale than in the past. He’s still asking for wood donations from neighbors and at construction sites, but he doesn’t have plans to haul in huge pieces of wood or chop full-size logs. He’ll stick with kindling this time.
In the corner of his garage where he’s set up a narrow workbench and a saw, Garrabrant trims the wood into 1-foot lengths, then splits each length into smaller pieces with an ax.
He neatly stacks the kindling into boxes, which he sells for $10 at the Exxon stations in the Glenwood Valley and North Hills shopping centers.
It’s been slow going so far, but Garrabrant is optimistic the idea will catch on.
Bryan Barker, a managing partner at the two stations, said he was happy to let Garrabrant set up shop. Customers have been asking about the boxes, especially as the weather has turned chilly and damp.
“Hopefully as it gets cold, things will start to pick up,” Barker said.
Garrabrant is hopeful others will hear about his plan and replicate it elsewhere.
“There have got to be other people like me,” he said.