The cordwood project at Corrigan-Radgowski Correctional Center in Uncasville is one of those ideas that are all at once inspired and simple.
The facility is bordered by densely treed woods, and between felled trees because of age, disease or storms, and clearing to build on the site, plus wood from the Town of Montville and the state Department of Transportation bringing in lumber from its work dealing with downed trees, there’s more than enough wood to go around.
Warden Scott Erfe agreed to the program which, using inmate labor to cut and split that wood, has over the last five years brought about 40 to 50 cords of wood each year to folks in need, especially seniors, who heat either partly or primarily with wood and whose incomes make it tough to buy enough for the winter season, especially at $200 a cord.
The prison coordinated with Montville Senior and Social Services, which provided a list of people in need of firewood, and so the program was born.
And for Lois and Bob Goodrich, it’s been a blessing. Bob, who spent 30 years as a working member of the Mohegan Fire Department, 10 years as an EMT/first responder, uses a wood-burning stove to heat his home. He said he was thankful for the efforts of the town, prison, officers and inmates.
“This will help,” he said as two inmates unloaded nearly a full cord of split wood and stacked it neatly on the side of Goodrich’s house.
“It’s better than putting four sweaters on when you go to bed,” Bob said. “It makes a big difference. Thank you.”
Inmate workers Adrian Nadeau of Bristol, David Stebbins of Plainfield and Ryan Crute of Jewett City agreed that in addition to being a great way to get outside and get a good workout, it’s something more.
“This is definitely a way for us to give back and maybe even earn a little forgiveness,” Stebbins said.
Waterford, Griswold, Salem and other nearby towns have received firewood from Corrigan.
“We’re part of the community. We like to be good neighbors,” said Andrius Banevicius, Department of Corrections public information officer.
And Warden Erfe, who huddled and chatted with the Goodrich’s, said this program, as far as he knows, is the only one in the correction system.
“This and our other (community-based programs) demonstrate just how committed to the community we are,” Erfe said.
Correction officers Jason Ware of Brooklyn and Joe Schoonmaker of Waterford coordinate and run the program. And they are so awesome, so when you see them out and about in town, say thank you from all of us!