A rubber-meets-road event has raised as much as $60,000 in heating assistance for low-income Vermonters, while giving drivers a chance to buy good, low-cost winter tires.
In late October, locations around the state — including Stowe and Middlesex — took part in Wheels for Warmth, which takes used tires from the public and resells them, raising money for community action organizations around the state.
Now in its 14th year, the event is the creation of Gov. Phil Scott; it fills a gap not being met by the state, said state Rep. Heidi Scheuermann, R-Stowe.
“We didn’t have enough money for fuel assistance for low-income Vermonters,” said Scheuermann, as she volunteered at the Stowe Events Field on Weeks Hill Road, one of many tire drop-off locations around the state. “This is a creative way to help people with heating assistance and it allows people a safe, responsible way to recycle their tires.”
Final numbers for this year’s event have not been tabulated, but Erica Scott — the governor’s daughter — said she believes this year’s total could equal last year’s record fundraising.
“Last year was a record year, when we raised $60,000,” Erica Scott said. “I’m not sure we’ll beat that, but we’re up from where we were three years ago.”
In the previous 13 years, the event raised over $425,000 for emergency heating assistance, sold 17,000 safe tires and recycled 28,000 unsafe tires.
The money is distributed to Capstone Community Action, the Champlain Valley Office of Economic Opportunity and BROC Community Action in southwestern Vermont.
Even absent final numbers, Scott said residents of Stowe and surrounding communities were quite generous with their tires.
“It was a really great year, especially in Stowe,” Scott said. “They collected twice as many good tires as they did last year.”
And what makes a tire good or bad? That decision is made by inspectors with the Department of Motor Vehicles, such as Ben Shelp, who inspected tires at the drop-off location in Stowe.
“We’re here to make sure that the tires that are turned in and that are going to be entered into the sale portion of the process are inspectable,” said Shelp, who looked for cracks, broken belts, patches and tread depth before deciding if a tire was bound for the sale pile or the recycling pile. “One, it’s keeping these tires from ending up in the stream or off the side of the road or the pulloff, but it’s also for a good cause.”
Scott ascribed the good local turnout to the Stowe Rotary Club.
“Having the Stowe Rotary Club come on board really rocketed them forward,” Scott said.
The club also prompted several area youths to volunteer their time.
“I need community service hours, but also I just wanted to help out the Rotary Club,” Lexi James, a junior student at Stowe High School, said as she directed traffic.
“The Rotary Club helps out schools, especially with scholarships, so I want to help them out with fundraising,” Stowe High junior Kay Meyer said. “Also, I love to help the community.”
Among the people dropping off tires was Stowe resident Max Brisben, who donated two tires from a Ford Ranger and a third from a Ford F-150, with the latter tire deemed good enough for resale.
“It’s pretty cool you can come by and drop off your old tires, and if they’re good, you can help somebody out,” Brisben said.
After the tires were collected and inspected, they were sold at locations in Middlesex and Rutland.
“The weather didn’t help us this year for the sales,” said Scott, noting an ice storm struck both locations. “We thought it would either scare people into coming out to get tires or scare them into staying home.”
Either way, Scott said, whatever money is raised will go to a good cause.
“Any money raised for this program is an amazing thing,” Scott said. “You can’t go wrong with this event. There are no losers.”