In 2008, there was no shortage of worthy candidates for OHC: Fuel prices had more than doubled, a long winter had taken its toll on heating equipment, and a slowing economy left many homeowners without a stable income.
The Susquehanna Valley Chapter in central Pennsylvania is one of NAOHSM’s smallest chapters. It took part in some of the earliest OHC cases and made a difference in the lives of many families, homes and businesses. In 2008, the chapter’s devotion to charity did not waver in the slightest. And the chapter continues to recruit and encourage more of its members to reach out and offer customers a helping hand.
Take this year’s spotlight project spearheaded by Michael “Mickey” Halkowicz and his wife Diane of Mickey’s Heating & Oil Burner Service in Lewisburg, Pa. These owners began their NAOHSM involvement in 1981, and learned about Oil Heat Cares through their frequent chapter meetings. As we mentioned, Susquehanna is one of OHC’s largest supporters.
“I’ve always wanted to be involved with a program like this,” Halkowicz tells PM. In the past his company came to the aid of the community through church affiliations. “We helped by serving people at soup kitchens, and were available to sit down and listen to folks when they needed someone to talk to.”
His good listening ear came in handy in October 2008, when a no-heat call came through the office for customers Phil and Agnes Moten.
“Sometimes we are able to help on our own when a customer has a special need, but the Moten’s had a lot more trouble than just forgiving a no-heat call or permitting extended payments,” Halkowicz explains.
The company had to act quickly: the Moten’s boiler was cracked and leaking. It was October, and colder weather was on the way.
The Oil Heat Cares program flashed through Halkowicz’s mind before he even left the house. “I could see that Phil and Agnes were devastated and becoming overwhelmed with the knowledge that they would be needing a new boiler.”
Phil and Agnes are senior citizens living on Social Security. Agnes, 69, works part-time at the YMCA in Milton, Pa., and Phil, 67, suffered a stroke eight years earlier and is unable to work. When Phil’s stroke occurred, the Motens were forced to spend what savings they had and even sell a car to pay for the medical expenses.
“They didn’t ask for help - and I didn’t mention Oil Heat Cares until getting back to the office later in the afternoon. This was the first installation of OHC which I personally participated in.”
Halkowicz explained the situation in a fast call to Bob Ditmar, Susquehanna Valley Chapter president and owner of Ditmar Plumbing and Heating and Oil Co. in Muncy, Pa. Ditmar had a positive reaction to the project and soon Diane Halkowicz was in touch with NAOHSM’s Judy Garber, who expedited everything from the request for help to Oil Heat Cares quickly qualifying the Motens.
From start to finish, the project was completed within a matter of days. Paperwork was submitted Oct. 15, and installation occurred Oct. 21.
The boiler was installed by Mickey’s Heating & Oil Burner Services, and included Halkowicz’s helper, Omar Ramos, and Ditmar and his helper, Josh Albright. The system featured multiple zones with an Argo zone controller. Halkowicz and Ramos took care of the electrical updates and new oil lines and filters. Ditmar and Albright completed the plumbing hookups.
Over all, the project went really well, Halkowicz said. The weather cooperated with only a dusting of snow and a slight chill in the air. The Motens made the workers as comfortable as they could with their hospitality.
“They had an urn of coffee and ample supply of donuts and other food,” Halkowicz says. “They made sure we lacked nothing when it came to lunchtime. We also enjoyed Phil and Agnes’ company while we worked.
The Motens were very grateful to Oil Heat Cares and NAOHSM for the help the organizations were able to provide. As Halkowicz explains, while the best part of working in an OHC project is the chance to help someone in his own community, the very best part was seeing the relief on Phil Moten’s face the night he told him the project was approved and there was no cost for them.
“They were in disbelief that someone could be doing this for them and it solved a problem which they had no answer for.”
For the Susquehanna Chapter, the decision to help the Motens was unanimous. “It was hard work: We had to do a lot of rescheduling to make it happen as quickly as we did, but I can’t explain the joy we all got from this project,” Halkowicz admits. He would recommend that feeling to anyone and urges involvement in Oil Heat Cares or community projects like it.
“It’s a great organization to be involved with and I can’t say enough about Oil Heat Cares, but again, that says it all: ‘Oil Heat Cares.’”
To read about more projects completed through Oil Heat Cares, visit www.oilheatcares.com.