When Plumbing & Mechanical wrote about the Oil Heat Cares program in April 2006, there were 14 completed projects, some of which we highlighted in that issue. Today, there are 91 completed projects listed on the Oil Heat Cares Web site (www.oilheatcares.com www.oilheatcares.com) that tell of families in need of heat and hot water, and the various chapter members of the National Association of Oil Heating Service Managers (including wholesalers and manufacturers) who donated their time, equipment and expertise to help their communities.
“The most important thing about our industry is the fact that we’re made up of a bunch of independent oil and service companies,” Judy Garber, chair of the Oil Heat Cares board and executive administrator of NAOHSM, said back then. “Each takes part in its own local neighborhood. Giving back is something that many of our members do regularly.”
Many of these charitable projects start with a routine service call where techs find heating systems too old or too dangerous, or neighbors and family members being concerned about an elderly or disabled homeowner. Applications are filed, quickly reviewed and approved, and equipment is secured, mostly through donations. Contractors then spend some of their free time installing the new equipment and removing the old. This month, PM highlights three chapters who were heroes in their communities.
Westchester-Putnam ChapterThe OHC project the Westchester-Putnam (N.Y.) chapter completed last November at Annie Tucker’s Mount Vernon residence (just north of the Bronx), featured some special guests.
James Flood and Mike Saunders, two students from Saunders Trades and Technical High School in Yonkers, spent the day helping install a new Weil-McLain boiler, a John Wood aqua booster (via Edwards Platt and Deely), a Beckett oil burner, a Granby oil tank (via Heritage Fuel) and a Hydrolevel feeder/low-water cutoff in Tucker’s basement.
“It was a great experience for them,” says Brothers Plumbing & Heating Supply owner Brian Schwartz, whose company was the supply house for the project. “They were able to work side-by-side with the plumbers and the heating guys.”
Flood and Saunders were brought to the project by Saunders’ HVAC instructor Tom Sabia, who is also a Westchester-Putnam chapter member.
“It was nice because it gives me a view of what it’s like once I get out of high school,” says Flood, a senior at Saunders who would like to pursue a career in heating after his schooling is finished. “Probably the best part of it was just being on the job. It was a real thing.”
Sabia, Flood and Saunders went to Tucker’s house earlier in the week and disassembled the old boiler, removed the oil tank and cleaned up the basement in preparation for the installation. The students returned later in the week to assist with the installation.
“They had their hands in a little bit of everything,” says Bob Daros, the owner of Heritage Fuel (Croton Falls). “I think they came away learning something. It was a double win for the woman and the trade school.”
Schwartz says introducing today’s youth to the trades is critical going forward.
“We have to make sure we get good people interested,” Schwartz says. “If you foster and nurture them, they are going to stay in the field. The techs on this job walked those kids through everything. It was the best experience for them. They were able to enjoy that aspect of a real-life situation.”
And through OHC, Tucker’s real-life situation was able to be swiftly rectified.“She needed everything,” Daros says.
“The old (oil steam) boiler had conked out,” Schwartz explains. “It had burst and actually cracked. She ran out of money and ran out of oil. This was in an uninsulated basement. The oil tank was full of old guck and sludge. People have tough times. You don’t want to see people freeze or get sick because of a lack of heat. Everybody really pulled together and now we’ve got a customer with heat.”
Saunders (no relation to the school’s name) walked away with not only new knowledge, but a distinct sense of satisfaction.
“It felt really relieving to help out someone in need,” says Saunders, a senior at the school who plans on taking classes at a local community college this spring and is interested in a litany of possible career paths. “She didn’t have any heat at the moment. It was nice to do something for someone less fortunate.”
Lehigh Valley ChapterThe last thing Nazareth, Pa.-based Fogel’s Fuel Service Manager Curt Dech wanted to do when he climbed up the steep, handmade stairs of Pauline Rampulla’s basement this past February was deliver the news he had.
“’How am I going to tell her she needs a new boiler?’” Dech recalls thinking at that moment. “I knew she couldn’t afford it. I had to give her the bad news.”
The 86-year-old Rampulla did not take the news well that her Spencer boiler - which Dech believes dated back to the 1950s - needed to be replaced after one of the tubes started leaking (the original service call was for a complaint of hearing running water).
“He told me it was shot. I thought, ‘Oh dear God. What in the world am I going to do?’” says the conversational Rampulla. “I’m 86 and on a fixed income. When he said it would be around $5,000, the tears rolled.”
“She was an absolute mess,” Dech says. “It’s tough to see a little old lady cry.”
Dech went back to Wayne Fogel, the second-generation owner of Fogel’s Fuel (a fuel oil company that also does work on boilers and water heaters), and explained Rampulla’s situation. And just like they did with a previous area customer last fall, Fogel’s got in contact with NAOHSM’s Garber to get OHC involved in helping with Rampulla’s boiler dilemma.
“Judy was right on the ball and got right on it,” Dech says.
Through a combination of Oil Heat Cares, Fogel’s and local nonprofit Visions of Eagles (an organization that helps local people in need), Rampulla was able to get a New Yorker FR 122 boiler installed (piping by Cerro, fittings by Viega ProPress, and valves by Watts and Viega ProPress).
Fogel’s donated all of the labor associated with the project. A total of five Fogel’s employees, including Dech, worked on the install. Oil Heat Cares and Visions of Eagles (Dech praised the work of Francis Donnelly on Visions’ end) combined to take care of the materials costs.
“The absolute cost to Mrs. Rampulla was zero dollars,” says Dech, who noted the project normally would have cost in the neighborhood of $4,600-$4,700. “She’s a wonderful lady. She was very appreciative of what we did.”
Fogel’s completed the install in one day during the work week.
“A lot of people stepped up to the plate here,” Dech says. “It cost Wayne Fogel (who was born on the same day as Rampulla’s son, Andrew) quite a bit of money to donate the time and labor. Sure we lost money, but we did what we felt needed to be done for this little old lady. It’s not about money at that point. It’s about helping her get heat.”
In that previous fall OHC project, Fogel’s helped Larry Westcott, an Effort, Pa., cancer-stricken man, by installing a furnace in his home. Westcott had previously been heating his home with a wood stove.
“We did the duct work. We did everything,” Dech says. “Oil Heat Cares really came through. That’s a job that would cost $7,500 to $8,000. He didn’t have to worry about splitting wood anymore.”
Dech marvels at the generosity shown in the two recent OHC projects he has been involved with. “To see companies and local people come together to help out people in need is heart-warming,” he says.
And Rampulla, who has known Fogel for many years, reports her new boiler is working just fine.
“You have no idea what this means to me,” she says. “It’s a godsend. All I can say is thank-you from the bottom of my heart.”
Fairfield County ChapterSippin Energy (Monroe, Conn.) Service Manager Al Breda encountered a potentially dangerous situation that required immediate attention on an OHC-sanctioned project just before last Christmas.
Breda and volunteers from two other area fuel companies were at the Gordon family residence in Bridgeport to install a new boiler. Angelo Formato, of Bridgeport-based Angelo’s Burner Service, had brought the family’s case up to Breda who then assisted Formato and his wife, Pat, with the paperwork that was needed for submittal to the NAOHSM national office.
“The base and chamber of the cast-iron boiler were rotted out,” Breda explains. “Flue gases were filling the basement of the house and there was a carbon monoxide concern. They would open the windows and run the boiler until it made hot water and then shut it off again. They were virtually without heat until late December.”
The malfunctioning unit was removed and replaced with a Peerless WBV boiler. Other materials used included a McDonnell & Miller low-water cutoff and a Watts feeder and backflow preventer.
But the installation of the boiler was not without problems. To kick the morning off, when the New England Heating Supply truck pulled up with the boiler, it was discovered the original specs would not work on that application.
The crew also had to contend with Mother Nature looking over its shoulder. A blizzard - which ended up dumping well over a foot of snow - was forecast later that day. “Businesses were closing down all over the place. This was six days before Christmas,” Breda notes. “It’s was ominous looking. We got finished hours before the ‘Blizzard of ’09.’”
Cramped conditions provided an additional hindrance, but ultimately revealed how powerful the OHC program can be.
“Not all of the volunteers could fit in the room,” Breda says. “So we put together a fire line. We had one or two guys near the boiler. We would yell out a measurement and someone outside the door would cut the pipe. We’d pass parts to guys. Everybody worked really well togther considering we were all with competing oil companies. There was no animosity. We just never get a chance to work together. It was great to see everybody working together on this. It was almost like a seminar.”
Breda, who was involved in a well-publicized OHC area project earlier last year that helped a military veteran and his family get a new boiler and much-needed chimney repairs, estimated the Gordon install at retail would have cost in the $7,000 range. Through manufacturer and wholesaler discounts, Breda noted the project came in under $2,500 for OHC.
“These people had no heat,” he says. “I was really impressed. We had six or seven people show up to install one boiler. You had a blizzard coming and all of these people showed up knowing that.”
The end result was an early holiday present for the Gordon family in more ways than one.
“Their backs were against the wall,” Breda says. “They really thought they were going to have to go through the winter like that and buy space heaters and tax their electrical system. They didn’t know what to do. They were very, very appreciative.”