This Family Keeps Their Community Warm by Chopping Firewood for Those in Need

A family tradition of chopping wood together warms the hearths of others.

Shane McDaniel stands with his chainsaw in front of a large pile of cut woodKyle Johnson for Reader's Digest
Shane McDaniel and his sons cut 80 truckloads of wood for those in need.

Washington is home to lots of trees—it is the Evergreen State, after all—and lots of fireplaces and wood-burning stoves too. But what if you lived there and couldn’t chop wood or couldn’t afford to pay someone to do it? Luckily, Shane McDaniel and his twin sons, Harrison and Henry McDaniel, 21, are happy to lend an ax. The three men chop truckloads of wood—then donate it to those in need. “I want people who are burning cardboard because they’ve got nothing,” Shane explained to “Or someone 75 with no money who has a broken shoulder and can’t cut wood.”

The idea started as a father-son bonding project, he told “I had to cut wood with my dad. He just loved doing it,” says Shane, 48, a divorced father of six. He wanted to pass along that feeling, so he and the twins spent the summer of 2018 like a clan of Paul Bunyans. The result was a great wall of wood piled up around their house in Lake Stevens, 35 miles outside of ­Seattle. Technically, it was 40 cords—a cord measures four feet high, four feet wide, and eight feet deep. To buy that much would cost about $10,000.

It was too much for the Mc­Daniels to use themselves, and when the weather turned cold that November, Shane started thinking of others. He posted on Facebook: “IF YOU ARE IN NEED OF FIREWOOD AND CANNOT AFFORD IT, PLEASE PM [personal ­message] ME! … If you know someone who BURNS WOOD, and they’re looking at a cold house this holiday season, please help us help them. Please help me and my boys make sure NO ONE GOES COLD IN OUR HOOD.”

The response was immediate. One man offered to donate a wood-burning furnace. Others raced over to Norm’s, the mini-mart Shane owns, with more wood for the pile. One woman, noticing the photo of the buff McDaniel men in the Facebook post, started to feel warm in other ways: “Please post more pictures of you in sleeveless shirts. I don’t need the wood. But truly I appreciate the eye candy!”

Single mom Katelyn Ticer, 29, and her four-year-old daughter rely on a wood-burning stove as their sole source of heat, so it was a relief to receive a truckload of firewood from the McDaniels before the holidays. “To get that much wood brought me to tears,” she told “So much stress and anxiety is off my shoulders. I couldn’t be more thankful.”

Not every recipient is as effusive. “Some aren’t even friendly. It’s just not in them,” Shane says. “They are mad at the world and mad that they had to ask for help. They just have no other option than freezing.” But Shane is OK with that. “Giving is the reward,” he says. “It has nothing to do with how well it’s received; it’s about how much it’s needed.”

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Andy Simmons
Andy Simmons is a features editor at Reader's Digest.