By Beth Fulmer, Synod Communicator for Messiah, Mauldin

If I was told once, I was told at least five times that I HAD to write an article about the Woodchucks. Of course, I told each and every parishioner who mentioned this that I would be happy to do so but it would require some research on my part since I was not a Woodchuck nor was I at all familiar with the Woodchucks and their story. My initial research led me to the fact that a woodchuck was a member of the squirrel family and I was pretty sure that was not what was causing all of the excitement and the pressing requests. As it turns out, the Woodchucks at Messiah Lutheran Church in Mauldin are a unique group of approximately eight men who chop, split, sell, and deliver wood to anyone and everyone who needs it. The Woodchucks got off to a slow start over twenty years ago when Paul Bachtel became aware of the fact that there were many people within the congregation who needed wood to heat their homes. Although that particular need is less today, the demand for wood is ever present. Last year, after serving as “head chuck” since its inception, Paul passed the baton to Bud Bush and David Neff who share the responsibilities of the head chuck. There are eight Messiah men who comprise the core group: Paul, David, Bud, Jim Allen, Ralph Wimmer, John Anderson, Steve Stuart, Malcolm Mather, and Ron Quinn. There are, of course, other men who participate, both young and old, with a variety of talents and capabilities.

Last year, the Woodchucks set a record by selling eight cords of wood. A cord is a 4x4x8 stack of wood. This year, they have already surpassed that record by selling nine cords. Half of a cord sells for $80.00. All of the money raised is used to pay the dues of the Lutheran Men in Mission, to make donations to Mission Churches, to help out the Messiah youth with their projects, and to lend a hand (when needed) to the Boy Scouts and the Cub Scouts. It is also used to construct wheel chair ramps and to just “help out” those who are in any type of need. The first project was with “Homes of Hope,” a program that reconditioned homes in dire need of help. They reconditioned that first home, a mobile home, both inside and out. And so the story began…and continues to flourish.

Wood is cut, a posting is put on the Messiah kiosk, and the wood is delivered to the recipients putting it exactly where they want it placed, inside or out. This simple process continues throughout the winter and into the early spring.

Paul stressed that if you are a Lutheran man, you are already a member of the Lutheran Men in Mission (It is not an exclusive club). He also stressed that they would welcome anyone who would like to join the Woodchuck brigade. It is not a prestigious group of men; it is simply a group of men who contribute their time and effort to a good cause and during this process, they enjoy coffee, donuts, and fellowship, just a few of the benefits that come with being a Woodchuck.

According to my research, the actual woodchuck (the rodent) is in no danger of becoming extinct. I doubt it will ever make it to the “endangered species” list! Just like the actual woodchuck, the Messiah Woodchucks are in no danger of dissipating in the near or foreseeable future. As long as there is a need, there will always be a group of Messiah men ready and able to meet that need with the love of our Lord, God and Savior, working with them side by side.

What Synod Communicators Do
In this edition of The South Carolina Lutheran eNews you heard from some of our Synod Communicators. Synod Communicators are volunteers, approved by their congregation’s council, to help bring the stories of how our offerings, gifts, and effective congregational ministries are reaching “outside the walls” across the synod. They will share your congregation’s stories of work “outside the walls” by submitting them for sharing through the South Carolina Synod’s publications. To find out more about the Synod Communicator program contact The Rev. Ozzie Herlong (ovherlong@aol.com) or Neal Fischer (neal@scsynod.com).

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