John Eigen was, at best, expecting to see eight or so people Saturday morning on the 800 block of South Johns Way. When he saw upward of 50, he got emotional.
Eigen is the director of the Joshua M. Tillery Memorial Fund, a nonprofit organization that helps veterans in need. A few days ago, radio station 101.9 The Bull got word that a retired veteran living in Emmett had no firewood to heat his home. The veteran’s wife’s Social Security is the only source of income for the family; wood is the home’s sole source of heat.
The Bull personalities Kevin and Brenda Mee asked listeners for help. Eigen wanted to get the Tillery Memorial Fund involved. A foundation was laid.
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There was still, however, the issue of getting wood.
The Mees learned of a tree in Emmett that had five large trees’ worth of wood sitting in the yard. No one was quite sure who owned the property, so they went to the city, found out someone named Roger Beckham owned it and asked him for help on air.
Beckham’s son called in and told them that his father loved the idea. The Beckhams had bought the property to restore it and had chopped down five large trees, leaving about $1,500 worth of wood for the taking.
Who was going to chop it all, though, and haul it?
Eigen saw the answer firsthand on Saturday when Emmett residents lined up in droves to help chop and transport wood to the veteran’s residence.
“What a radio station and word-of-mouth can do is amazing,” Eigen said. “I cannot believe the number of people who are here.”
It was a display of humanity worthy of praise – men, women and children spending their Saturday morning in frigid weather, wearing smiles that served as warmth.
The family in need now has firewood that should last two to three years.
“Not everyone can give,” Brenda Mee said. “But they can work.”
The numbers might have surprised Eigen, but Emmett resident Jessica Giddeon didn’t bat an eye. As she stood in the bed of a truck stacking logs of wood, she brimmed with pride.
“This is how Emmett works,” she said. “This is how small towns are supposed to work.”