The coldest part of winter is just around the corner and when it gets here, a certain Portage County family will stay warm inside their century-old house, thanks to the generosity of some friends and volunteers.

Dan Zinz, of Suffield Township, had his right arm amputated Dec. 6 after learning he had a form of cancer in October. The 33-year-old father of four daughters keeps his family warm by heating with wood, and was concerned this year he wouldn’t be able to cut and process the wood, due to his surgery.

That’s when the family decided to hold a day of volunteering — Nov. 10 — and about 30 volunteers turned out to cut, split and stack the wood into sizes his wife, Bessie, could handle. The couple’s daughters range in age from 4-12 and the family burns wood to offset the high cost of burning gas, which Dan said had previously cost him about $500 a month.

Lots of help

The day turned out better than expected, with about 25 people helping with the wood, while another half-dozen served breakfast and lunch.

People came from local churches, and some from across the country.

“There was one guy I had never met before in my life,” Dan said.

Bessie Zinz said it was “a very emotional, wonderful day.” In addition to helping cook, she sent each family home with either an apple pie or a pumpkin pie.

Dan said the group produced enough wood to last him all winter and was more than pleased with all their help.

“I think that all morning long a great faith was put back into humanity,” he said. “Everybody worked together pleasantly.”

The group cut wood at a 95-acre property owned by Dan’s uncle, Bill Zinz, of Deerfield. It was Bill who sent Farm and Dairy a letter telling us about the volunteer day after it was held, and we’re glad he did.

It is encouraging to hear stories like this, and of how people come to help, even though many did not know each other and had never met.

“That just proves that there is a lot of good in mankind,” Bill said.

Dan was unable to cut wood the day the volunteers came, but has kept his spirits high.

“If you saw him right now he just operates as if there was no problem,” Bill said. “He is progressing unbelievably well and has a tremendous attitude toward life.”

Touching story

As someone who burns wood myself, I know how comforting it is to have a large stack of wood ready for the season. But I can only imagine how much more comforting it is for Dan Zinz, whose primary heat is from wood and who has four girls and a wife to keep warm.

He said his condition continues to improve and doctors believe the surgery has taken care of the cancer. He works as a geologist and his wife is a stay-at-home mother, who also runs her own sewing business: Besserina LLC.

The family is active in 4-H, the Portage County Fair and their community. Dan coaches softball for his oldest daughter and he is an avid outdoorsman.

Recovery will take time, but Dan said he won’t be stopped.

“You’re not going to change who I am,” he said. “You’re just going to change how I do things.”

Those are some encouraging words and I wish him and his family well this holiday season. As well as the many people who came to help cut wood!

Follow along

To follow Dan’s progress or to learn ways you can help, follow them online at Facebook Page: The Zinz-Kisamore Family Page.


Chris Kick lives in Wooster, Ohio. An American FFA Degree recipient, he holds a bachelor’s in creative writing from Ashland University. He spends his free time on his grandparents’ farms in Wayne and Holmes counties.
Chris Kick
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