Greater Cleveland ACCA launched nearly 100 service technicians to winterize the furnaces of needy families throughout the Cleveland, OH area.
Paul Wadsworth (left), and Valley View Mayor Randall Westfall launch the Greater Cleveland version of Heat the Country.
Technician Phil Bentley changes a thermocouple for an elderly Cleveland resident.
On October 22, 2005, contractors across the country took a day out of their lives to donate manpower and supplies to elderly and financially strapped homeowners. The idea is to whip their furnaces into shape from clean-and-checks to, in some cases, complete replacements in local communities. The program, sponsored by the Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA), puts local chapters to work with their communities' public and private social service organizations to identify families who need help.
According to ACCA, last year, 631 volunteers from 12 chapters worked on 788 homes, which included replacing 44 units. In its first year, the project won the American Society of Association Executives "Associations Advance America" Award of Excellence. This prestigious award recognizes associations that propel America forward with innovative projects in education, skills training, standards setting, business and social innovation, knowledge creation, citizenship, and community service.
"It's a sad fact that some people can't afford necessary heating system maintenance during the winter, and sometimes turn to dangerous and life-threatening ways to keep their homes warm," says Paul T. Stalknecht, ACCA president and CEO. "We're very proud of our members for their participation in this worthwhile endeavor. Most of our members are locally owned and community-based businesses. They are taking care of their neighbors."
Among the ACCA chapters that participated: Akron-Canton, Austin, Central Indiana, Central Maryland, Central Ohio, Coastal Bend, Delaware Valley, Florida, Greater Cincinnati, Greater Cleveland, Greater Louisville, Greater Dayton, Greater Houston, Green Country, Kansas City, Mobile, National Capital, North Texas, Northeast Ohio, Oregon, San Antonio, and Southeast Michigan.
In Cleveland, OH, 15 to 20 suburbs joined forces with the Greater Cleveland Chapter of ACCA to identify families in need. According to Justine Giannetti, senior public information officer for Cuyahoga County Senior and Adult Services, they provided ACCA with the names of potential recipients of the Heat the Country program's services and acted as liaison between ACCA and the homeowners. "The names we provided ACCA were mostly from seniors and disabled residents throughout the county," she says.
In addition, ACCA partnered with Refrigeration Sales Corp. (RSC), a local Carrier/Bryant distribution center. RSC, as well as a number of other sponsors donated thousands of dollars of parts and filters for this program.
The sponsors included: Arzel Zoning Technology, Bryant Northern Ohio, Buckeye Heating Supply, Cannon Advertising, Cuyahoga County of Development, Cuyahoga County Dept. of Senior and Adult Services, Famous Supply, Fidelity Insurance, Gardner-Trane, Lennox Industries, NEXTEL, Otis Spunkmeyer, Panera Bread, The Plain Dealer newspaper, Porath Print Source, Refrigeration Sales Corp., R.E. Michels Co., Robertson Supply, United Automatic, WEWS-TV 5, and Wolff Brothers Supply.
From the RSC parking lot in Valley View, OH, 48 HVAC contracting firms were dispatched to perform more than 100 furnace clean and checks throughout Cuyahoga County.
Prior to dispatching the trucks to their jobs, Valley View Mayor Randall Westfall spoke to the throng of nearly 100 awaiting service technicians and students and thanked them for volunteering. "It's simply phenomenal that competitors can come together and work for a common cause," Westfall said. "I'm proud of all the participants here this morning and throughout Ohio today."
According to Paul Wadsworth, president of P.K. Wadsworth, Inc., Solon, OH and the Greater Cleveland ACCA committee chair for the Heat the Country program, the number of contractors participating in Ohio was nearly triple that of last year's program.
"In addition," he says, "we have students from three vocational schools participating, donating their time and learning hands-on with seasoned professionals."
One of the participating service technicians, Phil Bentley from Anderson Heating and Cooling, based in Mentor OH, traveled across the city to the staging area in the RSC parking lot. With two students in tow, he set out to the home of Gladys Walcott. Walcott lives in a two family house, which she shares with her elderly parents. In the basement, Bentley found a 50-year-old Niagara furnace that was in fairly decent shape. It was the water heater that got his attention right away.
The flue pipe from the water heater had broken off and was laying on the ground. Flue gas was leaking into the basement a potentially fatal condition for Walcott's parents, both of whom are in their 90s. Bentley quickly repaired the pipe while the two students, Mark Sims and Brian Scahel, cleaned the furnace.
"Who knows what would have happened if the weather turned colder and the family closed up the house," Sims says. "We may have saved these people's lives."
Though the program is over for 2005, check the ACCA website at www.acca.org over the coming months, as well as your local ACCA chapters for information on how you can get involved in the 2006 program.