Gilbert: Linden man chops wood, warms hearts

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We are very proud to call John Cummings a friend of Mike’s Mobile Screen & Chimney Service. Mr. Cummings, and his foundation, was recently featured in the Stockton Record Newspaper.  He is currently in the process of making his foundation an official non-profit organization. Below is the entire article.

By Lori Gilbert
Record Staff Writer
Posted Nov. 8, 2014 @ 6:30 pm

John Cummings was chopping and splitting the walnut trees he’d taken out of his two-acre property east of Stockton wondering what to do with all the wood when inspiration struck.

Cummings, 64, born and raised in Linden, prefers burning eucalyptus and other hard woods because walnut burns faster and doesn’t radiate as much heat.

When he’s sitting and enjoying the fire in his wood-burning stove — the only source of heat in the home built in 1929 that he shares with his wife — he doesn’t like to keep stoking it.

People in need might not mind tending a fire more frequently, he reasoned, and his idea for a charitable organization was born.

Warm a Hearth — Warm a Heart Foundation is not an official nonprofit yet. All of that takes time. There’s paperwork to be completed. Cummings, a mechanic by trade who owns his own business and serves local farmers, is putting the majority of his effort into his cause.

Specifically, he wants to help low-income families stay warm during the winter. Warm a Hearth — Warm a Heart will pay for licensed chimney inspections and provide free firewood for those identified as being in need.

“I wanted to do something to keep children warm,” Cummings said, “to keep them warm in a nice, safe environment.”

If they’re safe and warm at night, he figures, they have a better chance of doing well in school and in life.

Cummings, by his own definition a private man, is stepping out into the public for a cause. His heart seems to be in the right place, although his idea is not universally embraced.

Wood burning is largely discouraged by the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District. The number of allowable burn days is expected to be smaller than in recent years in an effort to reduce particulate matter in the air.

The district encourages residents to take advantage of its financial assistance to replace open wood-burning fireplaces with more efficient gas or pellet stoves.

Even with assistance, though, modern stoves are not always feasible for families on tight budgets. In cases where fireplaces offer a home’s only source of heat, burn rules don’t apply.

Farmington Fire Chief Conni Bailey is among those who are backing Cummings’ effort.

“Anything we can do to support John in his efforts to keep kids warm, we’re all for,” said Bailey, whose mostly volunteer department is involved in several charitable efforts. “The inspections are a great boost to our end. We offered to assist in any way we could in that effort. He’s going to make available to us all those records. If something does happen, we’ll have records to go with our fire reports if there’s a chimney fire. We’ll know if it had been inspected.”

Her department sees two to four chimney fires a year, she said.

Beyond that, though, Bailey likes Cumming’s outreach to community members in need, something that defines her own fire department.

Cummings is limiting his services to families with children in the Linden and Escalon school districts, the two areas where he lives and works.

One farmer has donated 50 cords of wood. Others have made smaller donations. Running out of wood isn’t a concern for Cummings, who sees orchards pulled all the time. The bigger hurdle is connecting with families that can use his service.

Cummings said he’s approached school district offices and schools with information to pass along to families who could use his help, but said he has gotten little response. The best connection he’s made was with an Escalon High School student he met at a gym where both work out. The young man is taking Cummings’ proposal to a service club he belongs to at school.

Cummings also is spreading the word at local churches.

Ultimately, he’d like to see volunteers join him in cutting and delivering wood, and keeping records of the work being done. His sister set up a website,, to accept donations to help with the costs of inspections.

In the meantime, Cummings is using money he had planned to use to work on an old jeep to pay for the initial paperwork needed to start a foundation, and will also pay for chimney inspections. Real fund raising will have to be addressed in the future. For now, Cummings is more concerned with getting the program established.

“This is the biggest thing I’ve done,” Cummings said. “I want to do something right.”

Launched in the last couple months, Warm a Hearth – Warm a Heart is already has met its goal, Cummings said.

“I’m already helping one person. A woman called,” Cummings said.

That’s what he hoped for, to help even one person stay warm this winter. He dreams of more to come.

Contact reporter Lori Gilbert at (209) 546-8284 or [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @lorigrecord.

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