Love INC benefits from work of Wilson, others

Jack Wilson uses a special wire basket to pick up walnuts along Cherry Street in Huntington. Wilson had a pretty good haul this year – around 1,150 pounds of the nuts – which he sells to benefit Love In the Name of Christ.
Jack Wilson uses a special wire basket to pick up walnuts along Cherry Street in Huntington. Wilson had a pretty good haul this year – around 1,150 pounds of the nuts – which he sells to benefit Love In the Name of Christ.

When others may have been out walking their dogs or scurrying about between places like the grocery store to their vehicles, Jack Wilson got his exercise this fall by picking up black walnuts.

To be precise, 1,150 pounds of them.

At the end of October, which also marked the end of “walnut season,” Wilson says, that’s how much the nuts weighed that he delivered to a buyer, and then donated the proceeds to Love In the Name of Christ.

“This is something I do to help out Love INC,” he says. “We’ve been doing it down at Trinity United Methodist Church for about 10 years and we finally decided to turn it over to them.”

TUMC had set up trailers at the church and locations in Warren, Markle and Roanoke for people to drop off their green-hulled donations. Now that the church has turned the operation over to Love INC, the ministry oversees hauling the walnut-laden trailers to the local buyer.

Ministry Coordinator Erin Didion says it’s a lot of hard work, but the proceeds from the sale of the nuts keep the lights on and the utilities paid so they can help others in the community who are hungry or have needs.

“This year we did really, really well – 15,004 pounds,” she reports. “We have dozens and dozens of people in the community who would let us come out to their homes and pick up walnuts or drop them off at one of our four drop-off locations.”

But even though Love INC has taken over the bulk of the walnut gathering, individuals like Wilson still put in countless hours of work to make each year’s harvest.

“He works hard in all kinds of weather and always has such a great disposition,” says Huntington resident Mariann Hackler, who has had Wilson harvest the nuts from her walnut trees for the past 10 years.

Wilson uses a wire roller basket to capture the nuts, allowing them to slip between the metal ribs. He estimates it takes around two to 2-1/2 hours to clear one yard of the downed nuts.

“If you don’t have a roller it’s going to take you all day,” he adds. “And it also depends on how fast you move. My legs aren’t as good as they used to be.”

Wilson says the local buyer, Scott Lewis, paid 15 cents per pound this year after the outer husks had been removed. This year’s harvest brought in 150,250 pounds of walnuts, hulled, bagged and then shipped in semi loads of the nuts to Hammon’s Black Walnut Co. in Stockton, MO.

“This is my sixth year of doing this,” Lewis says. “I started out just buying them to help out Trinity Church because they were doing their community trailers. … I signed up to do this to buy walnuts from anybody that brings them in to us. I’ve probably got 150 customers. I’ve had them from as far away as Delphos, OH, this year.”

Lewis says the median age of the people who pick up the nuts is 55 – meaning they need to have a lot of time on their hands to gather up the green-hulled nuts, some about tennis ball size or larger. He adds that many of the people who bring in nuts to sell keep the money to pay for gasoline to mow their lawns the next summer.

Despite the huge numbers sold, the nuts Wilson and others have picked up hasn’t daunted the city’s walnut harvest. There are plenty of black walnut trees in the area and plenty still left for the local squirrel population, he says.

“We only take about one-tenth percent of what the population is, in case people say, ‘What’s left for the squirrels?’” he adds.

The Love INC walnut drop-off locations this year were at Trinity United Methodist Church, Markle United Methodist Church, Economy Machine in Roanoke and Heritage Pointe of Warren. Didion says she hopes to have the same donation locations for next year’s harvest.

More information on the annual walnut harvest can be found on Facebook at www.facebook.com/scot tlewis.gotnuts.