Man using a log splitter
Volunteer Phil Candelaria uses a splitter to create firewood at Conifer Community Church’s Split & Steak, an annual tradition in its 13th year. Credit: Deb Hurley Brobt

The fragrance of fresh-cut wood blended with the buzz of chainsaws and splitters as volunteers spent a day creating piles and piles of firewood for residents in need.

Large pile of fire wood with a woman throwing a log onto it.
Sarah Aiken, one of more than 100 volunteers at Split & Steak, the wood ministry at Conifer Community Church, throws a piece of firewood into a trailer. The wood will be given to families in need that need firewood to heat their homes for the winter. Credit: Deb Hurley Brobst

After the work was done, the volunteers sat down to a steak dinner to celebrate their hard work.

Therefore the name: Split & Steak.

The Conifer Community Church wood ministry event in its 13th year brings together volunteers from the church and the community to make sure families won’t be cold this winter. This year’s goal was to split 70 cords of wood, all to be given away.

Woman putting firewood into a car.
Volunteer Erin Stewart loads firewood into the car of a Conifer resident, who needs the wood to heat her home this winter. Credit: Deb Hurley Brobst

For Barb of Conifer, who asked that her last name not be used, the firewood that volunteers piled into her car was a godsend.

Man uses a chainsaw to cut a log.
The sawdust flies as a volunteer uses a chainsaw buck logs into firewood. Credit: Deb Hurley Brobst

“I got really sick and now I’m in dire straits because I can’t afford to pay for heat,” Barb said. “This is the most amazing thing.”

Pastor Lance Swearengin said Split & Steak was the first event he participated in when he came to Conifer Community Church in 2010. While the event continues to grow, so does the need, and he said it shows the church community’s generosity.

People working to split and stack firewood.
The volunteers working at Split & Steak have their jobs, and each crew is like a well-oiled machine. Credit: Deb Hurley Brobst

“They help others in a tangible way,” he said.

Jeremy Fowler, who heads the church’s firewood ministry this year, explained that the church collects wood throughout the year, and much of the firewood the church distributes is cut during Split & Steak, with 125 volunteers making it happen.

Woman putting seasoning on steaks.
Joyce Dickey prepares steaks for grilling. Credit: Deb Hurley Brobst

The church would like to double the number of volunteers next year because the more people bucking, splitting and stacking firewood, the more people can be helped.

Two women working at a table to season steaks.
Michelle Jones, left, and Patsy Hoover put spices on steaks that will be grilled for the steak part of Split & Steak. Volunteers grill steaks, chicken and portobello mushrooms, and serve salads and desserts to the volunteers. Credit: Deb Hurley Brobst

Erin Stewart helped put firewood into people’s vehicles, saying it felt good to give back to the community. She is a parent of a Boy Scout from Troop 400, which is based at the church, and several Scouts were hard at work as well.

Man holding a chainsaw looking at a pile of logs.
Mike Bauer assesses the logs he is preparing to buck, so they can be split into firewood. Credit: Deb Hurley Brobst

Phil Candelaria was stationed at a log splitter, keeping it working as the pile of split wood continued to grow. A veteran of this event, he says he has several t-shirts that are given to the volunteers each year, and he enjoys helping because he knows people need wood each winter.

Woman in a baseball cap holding a log.
Erin Stewart holds a log as she waits for a splitter to become available. Credit: Deb Hurley Brobst

Ben Petersen brought wood to Candelaria’s splitter, and he joked that he thought he was signing up for the steak meal. More seriously, he said, “I do this kind of work at home, so I have the ability to help out.”

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