A partnership made in heaven formed when NAU’s Southwest Experimental Garden Array joined forces with Wood for Winter Warmth, a Sunnyside Neighborhood Association program that provides free firewood to elderly and low-income residents of northern Arizona.

As fire season was fast approaching, and the Southwest Experimental Garden Array, or SEGA, needed to find a home for a mountain of wood created when a dozen large trees were cut down to establish a research garden near The Arboretum at Flagstaff. SEGA is a system of gardens along the elevational gradient in northern Arizona that allows scientists to examine how species respond to changing climate conditions.

“At first, removing the wood from the research site was just one more logistical challenge,” said Ella Stephens, SEGA’s field operations manager. “Making sure that the wood reached people in need became a priority when we thought about doing the right thing and NAU’s responsibility to the community.”

SEGA staff reached out to Joe Ray, the director of Wood for Winter Warmth. Ray organized volunteers to load the wood and haul it back to Flagstaff, where volunteers split, stack and distribute the wood.

“This is a win-win situation that turns unwanted materials into the gift of warmth for people who need a helping hand,” Ray said. “The program’s success has only been possible because of the generosity of many individual volunteers, church and civic organizations and local businesses.”

Wood for Winter Warmth provides between 200 and 400 cords of free firewood each year to elderly, disabled and low-income residents of northern Arizona. The program delivers firewood to approximately 300 homes each year, and keeps 2,000 to 3,000 community members warm each winter.

Wood for Winter Warmth is always looking for volunteers. For more information, please contact Joe Ray at (928) 699-0298.