Gold Country Community Services to host Senior Firewood Program documentary and fundraiser
Special to Prospector
KNOW & GO
WHO: Gold Country Community Services and Event Helper
WHAT: Senior Firewood Program Documentary & Fundraiser
WHEN: Saturday at 6 p.m.
WHERE: Nevada Theatre, Broad Street, Nevada City
TICKETS: $40 by calling 530-615-4541 or visiting the GCCS website at goldcountryservices.org
If you know anything about Gold Country Community Services (GCCS), you probably think about them for the nutrition programs they provide to Nevada County seniors – namely, the Meals on Wheels program. What you may not know is that since 1979, Gold Country Community Services has also supplied firewood to low-income seniors in Nevada County.
Thanking the volunteers and bringing attention to the firewood program was the initial impetus behind the filming of a short documentary that will premiere Saturday, Feb. 22 at the Nevada Theatre, but the event will now also serve as a fundraiser for the program which serves 160 seniors and carries a waiting list.
Executive Director Janeth Marroletti said the Wood Program is part of the mission of GCCS in supporting the health and wellness of seniors in western Nevada County. “We are showing the documentary to celebrate the volunteers of the program that has been going on in Nevada County for forty years. They have been kind of doing all of this work without really being public about it. 160 seniors depend on all of these volunteers in the program to keep warm in the winter.” That list includes 30 veterans which Marroletti says is unacceptable. “After everything they did, for them to be cold? No. We can do better.”
Marroletti came to Nevada County from Southern California after discovering Grass Valley on a stress relieving getaway. She and her husband fell in love with the area and she began looking for a job just as GCCS Executive Director Sandy Jacobson was retiring from the position. Marroletti spent her entire career in senior related services and was thrilled to be hired. She said the idea of keeping seniors warm is a rural concern not even thought about in metropolitan areas.
“Coming from the city, you don’t think about firewood as anything more than romantic and fun and not as a necessity. I was very intrigued that we still depend on firewood and why is this not a concern. I study aging and it never came up. I told friends about it and they suggested we make a video to highlight the volunteers. So, what started as a little idea of a YouTube video, turned into a full-blown documentary.”
Sponsored by Event Helper and hosted by Peter Stack, the evening includes unlimited beer and wine provided by Grass Valley Brewing Company and Nevada City Winery (respectively) in a commemorative keepsake glass. Eskaton Village is providing delicious appetizers and they will show the 12-minute documentary – all for $40 a person, with all proceeds benefitting the Wood Program. “The program has basically been self-run and we wanted to highlight that and celebrate that. This is what a community can do to help each other. They (volunteers) aren’t looking for recognition, but it is a way to celebrate them,” Marroletti said. “We have a vast group of people from all walks of life that come together for this purpose – to help other seniors. When you talk to them, they are all so humble.”
While volunteers are the backbone of the program, there are a number of expenses they need to cover. “One hundred percent of the proceeds will be used for the firewood program — for the equipment the volunteers use along with fuel and to add a couple more people to the program. Right now, our limitation is 160 but we have people on the waiting list so I would like to add some of those people,” Marroletti said. While it varies, seniors receive a cord and a half of wood or more. She added people may not realize that the 31 volunteers work the program year-round.
Only a year and a half into the job, Marroletti said she can see issues that are unique to rural seniors. “Our firewood program is one of the last in California. It’s not that the need went away, it just means the need is not being met.” She said one of the biggest needs is more volunteers to help with getting the wood. Marroletti said there is an eleven-month wait list to get donated trees removed from properties.
“We want to make it a celebration and get to know the impact volunteers can have on a program.” She added, “Bigger picture is to highlight the importance of rural community issues when it comes to seniors.”
Marroletti said while most of those same seniors could benefit from other services GCCS provide, it is too big to look at incorporating them all together. “The Wood Program is entirely separate There is so much need when it comes to food, it is too big to address as an agency. That is why we are advocating that we need to address food insecurity with seniors. All the seniors in the firewood program are frail, low-income, isolated and without the resources. They are the same qualifications for Meals on Wheels but we have 86 people on the waiting list just for Meals on Wheels and if I were to add the firewood clients to the list we would be looking at over 200 people waiting for food. That is overwhelming.”
The documentary illustrates that volunteers are a vital part of the program. “Hopefully, we will get more volunteers. Our biggest need is to get more people to split the wood, “she said. “More people to realize that we still have seniors that depend on firewood. We don’t have an official program from the county or the state. It really comes down to, ‘Can the community help your elderly neighbor?’ We have this program but what else can we do? It’s bringing awareness. It’s volunteers, making donations. It’s a unique need to a rural community that people may not think about.”
Marroletti said she hopes the fundraiser will show people what an impact volunteering can make. “We have an amazing group of people who work week after week — some for 20 years — and it’s time to recognize and celebrate them.”
Hollie Grimaldi Flores is a Nevada County resident and freelance writer for hire. She can be reached at email@example.com.
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