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/ Source: TODAY
By Laura Ratliff

It’s been a brutally cold winter across much of the U.S., and for some, the increased heating costs have been a financial burden.

One Washington small business owner found a way to help needy families cut their expenses and stay warm this winter.

Shane McDaniel had 10,000 messages on social media within the first week of announcing his initiative. TODAY

Shane McDaniel started collecting firewood last summer when heavy storms felled trees around his Lake Stevens home. Enlisting the help of his sons, McDaniel’s house was quickly surrounded by more than 40 cords of firewood with nowhere for it to go — until he had an idea.

"I wanted to give all this firewood away. And a lot of people said, ‘Well, who burns firewood anymore? No one's gonna want it,’” McDaniel told Sunday TODAY's Harry Smith. “But I can assure you that the neediest people definitely burn firewood still. I had 10,000 messages the first week.”

McDaniel, his sons and a few of their friends hit the road, delivering firewood to families who otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford to heat their homes this winter.

For those who have received McDaniel’s wood, the gesture has been life-changing. A study in the American Journal of Public Health found that low-income families are forced to spend less on food during the colder months, as more of their budget goes toward heating costs.

TODAY

When McDaniel’s stash began to dwindle, friends and strangers started dropping off more wood. Now, the McDaniel family is already drying and stacking wood to deliver next winter.

His only regret? “I never knew there was a need at all,” he said. “The biggest regret is that I didn't start doing this a long time ago.”