Volunteers, who are seminarians preparing for priesthood, are helping rural Indiana communities heat their homes during the winter months. According to Catholic News Service, for over forty years, seminarians have been participating in what became known as Project Warm which supplies firewood for those in need in Indiana. Facing harsh winters, the people of Indiana can be reassured that should they need help heating their homes, firewood will be available thanks to the hard work of these volunteers.
In Project Warm, volunteers collect wood from local donors and split it themselves at the seminary. The split wood then gets delivered to the homes of people who need it most, bringing much needed relief during the months that bring brutal cold. While Project Warm helps those with limited resources, it also helps the volunteers prepare for their life of ministry and service. Being part of this outreach is teaching seminarians not only about helping those living in poverty, but about the meaning of working hard together to support the community.
Volunteers are not only warming the homes of those in need, they are warming their hearts as well. With each wood delivery, recipients also receive the message that they are thought of and cared about, which raises their spirits during what may be difficult times. Those volunteering with Project Warm intentionally pray throughout their work for the families they help. One mother who received help from Project Warm shared that she appreciates the hard work and dedication of these volunteers who have helped keep her and her daughter safe and warm throughout the winter.
Benedictine Father Anthony Vinson, pastor of St. Meinrad Parish in St. Meinrad and St. Boniface Parish in Fulda, who has led Project Warm since 2004 shared that the project provides an opportunity for seminarians to get to know communities better which will help them more effectively serve the people. He shares that in rural areas, people like to be self-sufficient and take care of themselves. With Project Warm, they are able to heat their own homes, which is empowering and proud work itself. Some volunteers know first-hand the importance of having wood to heat their homes and the satisfaction it brings when one is able to do so. Eli Yandow, a seminarian for the Diocese of Burlington, Vermont, was raised on a dairy farm near the Canadian border where his home was heated entirely by wood.
Father Vinson explains that it takes time getting to know how a community can best be served, but once their needs are learned about, the right help begins to make a difference. Project Warm has brought a myriad of opportunities including fellowship, prayer, and helping those in need have one less thing to worry about.