Gov. Scott said the $65,000 raised by Wheels for Warmth this year was “humbling.”

The results of the 2019 campaign — Scott launched the program while still a state legislator in 2005 — were announced last week at the offices of BROC Community Action in Rutland. The event was attended by representatives of BROC’s counterparts in other parts of the state.

“The easy part is collecting the tires,” organizer Richard Wobby said. “The harder part is telling everybody what we did.”

The program collects used tires, selling those that pass a DMV inspection and recycling those that don’t, with the proceeds going to heating assistance programs. Scott said he “stole” the idea from the coat drive organized by Karen Kitzmiller, the late Democratic representative from Montpelier.

“This is nonpartisan,” Scott said. “Poverty hits all of us, Republican or Democrat alike.”

Jane Demers, executive director of the Champlain Valley Office of Economic Opportunity, described arriving in her office to find a voicemail from a first-time caller asking about emergency heating assistance. The man thought he had hung up, she said, but the staff could hear him turn to his wife and suggest he could sell some of his tools to pay for fuel.

“For a Vermonter, a tool box is a lifetime of gold,” she said. “It was an 81-year-old gentleman who had just come out of the hospital. His wife was 80. We got them some fuel.”

In its first year, Wheels for Warmth raised about $9,000.

“To see what it’s become now — over $60,000 in one year — it’s just, again, so humbling,” he said.

BROC Executive Director Tom Donahue thanked Casella Waste, saying that the company’s sponsorship makes the program possible.

“It’s a big logistic nightmare, except for the fact you guys make it look easy,” he said.

The effort collected 6,707 tires, of which 2,074 were sold. Scott said the sales of the tires at affordable prices can be almost as much of a boon as the heating assistance. He recalled a woman stumbling onto the event one year as she was getting her car inspected. She needed both new brakes and new tires to pass and couldn’t afford both, he said, until she found the Wheels for Warmth sale. “It was such a relief for her to get those tires that day so she could get her car inspected Monday,” Scott said. “That would have been it for her — she wouldn’t have been able to get to work. When times are tough, you think about stress like that.”

gordon.dritschilo @rutlandherald.com

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