Tucked away in the back corner of my garage sit two perfectly good Hakkapeliitta snow tires, still neatly wrapped in the plastic Nokian covers they were placed in four years ago – the last time they were used. They don’t fit my current car, so they serve no purpose other than to occupy space designated for bikes and sleds. But that’s about to change. Soon they’re going on a journey to help someone stay warm this winter – a journey known as Wheels for Warmth.
Wheels for Warmth evolved from the Vermont tradition of neighbor helping neighbor. In 2005, Phil Scott had an idea: Wasn’t there some way that used tires could serve a better purpose than just taking up garage space? Scott had tires he no longer used, and he knew many others did too. Listening to “The Trading Post” on WDEV every morning, he was overwhelmed by the number of tires on the program. His idea became the vision that used tires could be the currency to buy emergency heating fuel for central Vermonters. All used tires could play a role, not just quality tires, but worn tires too. Safe tires could be re-sold at very affordable prices, and unsafe tires recycled for a fee. The proceeds would then be used to buy the heating fuel. One neighbor donates tires, another neighbor buys them, and another neighbor’s home is heated. Unusable tires head for recycling instead of the river. Scott felt pretty confident the plan would work, so he contacted Hal Cohen, Executive Director of the Central Vermont Community Action Council (CVCAC) – the local organization that assists people who cannot afford heating fuel.