MONTPELIER — This 14th annual Wheels for Warmth event brought in more than $64,000 that will be used as home-heating aid for low-income Vermonters.

The event, which takes place around the state during the last weekend in October, also provides tires for those in need by way of tire donations and gets worn tires out of the waste stream. Donated tires are inspected by the Department of Motor Vehicles to make sure they are safe for driving for a full season.

Richard Wobby, coordinator of the event, said words alone couldn’t begin to express his gratitude for the event’s results and to those that made the event happen.

“Each year I wonder how it could even be possible to raise the bar forward, but somehow it always seems like we pull together and make that happen,” Wobby said.

He said this year’s event brought in $64,000, over 1,900 tires were sold and over 2,700 tires were recycled. Over its 14-year lifespan, Wobby said the event has recycled over 33,000 tires, with nearly 21,000 tires sold and over $496,000 raised for emergency fuel assistance programs throughout the state.

Gov. Phil Scott started the event when he was a state senator. Scott said he remembers watching the success of the Karen Kitzmiller Memorial Winter Coat Drive in Montpelier and thinking what he could bring to the table to help Vermonters.

“I thought about all the tires that I had in my garage, in my basement that were still good, still viable. … I didn’t have the time to sell them and I thought there must be others who have the same problem that I have, and there were,” he said.

Scott, a Republican, said they raised about $10,000 that first year and it’s grown ever since.

The money raised is going to three organizations that offer fuel assistance to low-income residents. Capstone Community Action in Barre will get about $27,000, BROC Community Action in Rutland will get about $20,000 and Champlain Valley Office of Economic Opportunity in Burlington will get about $12,000.

Brian Tagliaferro, director of resource development and grants at Capstone, said Wheels for Warmth is “a real team effort that demonstrates an incredible impact on our communities in a lot of different ways.”

Tagliaferro said you see a sense of relief and excitement on the faces of families when they come and buy affordable tires for the winter. He said moments like that demonstrate how important this event is.

“We all know that winter is a challenging time for many folks in our state, but Vermonters shouldn’t have to choose between such things as heating their home or feeding their families,” he said.

Tagliaferro said the money raised by the event will be used to help heat the homes of more than 1,000 people in central Vermont.

Tom Donahue, chief executive officer of BROC, said people care about each other in this state.

“And that’s the big difference here. My grand kids are sixth-generation Vermonters, and the one thing that I can see generationally is how we take care of each other. And fuel and keeping each other warm during these really difficult winters is one of those things that’s critical,” Donahue said.

He said programs like Wheels for Warmth make a significant difference in the lives of those that live in the state. He said the sad news is that there are people in situations who need this type of assistance, but the good news is that assistance is there for them.

eric.blaisdell@timesargus.com

Reporter

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