Got the Christmas decorations packed away? We hope so considering you’re reading this in February. Until we put the garland back up, take a look at a few stories we spotted during this past holiday season from plumbing and heating professionals who helped out those in need:
Now here’s a plumbing couple who may have taken their water-related careers to new depths.
Ron and Kimberly Boeckmann originally met when both were commercial divers. After the two married, they decided terra firma might be a better option. After Ron learned the plumbing trade working for others for about seven years, he and Kimberly opened Olympic Plumbing Technology, in Olympia, Washington in 2007.
While they timed their launch to coincide with the Great Recession, the business has prospered. Since then, the company has moved up from a home office back when it was just Ron and Kimberly on the payroll to a commercial shop and currently employs a staff of 13, including seven plumbing techs.
Throughout that time, the company has always set aside money in their annual budget to provide free assistance.
“Some of our core values are about integrity, teamwork, customer service, and all of the things that go along with that,” Kimberly told ThurstonTalk.com, an online news source for the local community in and around the state’s capital. “Not too long ago, Ron went out to an elderly customer’s home and found her in very poor health. He performed the work for free because it was the right thing to do.”
To cap off a tough 2020, Olympic teamed up with its local Ferguson supply house for the BIG Water Heater Giveaway, named in part for company mascot, the Pacific Northwest’s elusive Bigfoot, to provide three water heaters to those in need. The distributor provided the water heaters to Olympic free of charge and Olympic took care of the installation for a job that would have run a total of $1,600 each.
“Giving back is really important to us,” Kimberly added. “That’s just how Ron and I operate. I’m constantly trying to balance being a mom and running a small business, and I have all of these different things going on. But behind all of that, the heart of what Ron and I are truly focused on is taking care of our customers, our employees and our community.”
The community could nominate homeowners within Olympic’s service area using a form posted on the company’s Facebook page. About the only stipulation was that the existing water heater had to be at least 10 years old.
The contest ran from Nov. 30 to Dec. 18 and the three winners were chosen on Dec. 22.
Williams Comfort Air
We first wrote about Williams Comfort Air, based in Carmel, Indiana, last year when contractors were stepping up to help out their local communities at the beginning of the pandemic. (“Contractors Lead The Way During COVID-19,” June 2020, https://bit.ly/3oEBFjx)
The good works continued throughout 2020 when Williams donated more than $40,000 in gift cards, HVAC systems and water heaters to families and The Salvation Army as part of its "Christmas On Us" initiative.
In all, the company, which also operates Mr. Plumber in Indiana; Thomas & Galbraith Heating, Cooling and Plumbing in Ohio; and Jarboe's Plumbing, Heating and Cooling in Kentucky, provided $500 in gift cards for five families in each of the three states it serves, and one free water heater and HVAC system for one family in each of the three states it serves.
The HVAC systems were provided to veterans who were nominated by their own community members. Their community also nominated water heater recipients. Finally, Williams donated $2,500 to The Salvation Army.
"We are proud to have a long-standing tradition of giving back during the holidays and throughout the year, but this year it feels even more important," says Jacob Huck, president of Williams. "As a result of COVID-19 and its resulting economic impact, we know people are struggling. It's an honor to step in and allow the holidays to be a little more joyous for families in need."
Keep in mind that Williams and its brands had already donated $60,000 to charitable organizations during their "Summer of Giving." For the holiday season initiative, however, company leaders say they felt compelled to focus on families.
"Heating, cooling and plumbing services are essential, and we've managed to stay busy over the last year," says Matt Tyner, Williams Comfort Air director of marketing. "To be in a position where we can greatly impact families, especially at a time when so many are struggling, is humbling. With a resolve to do good within the communities we serve, we look forward to continuing our philanthropic efforts throughout 2021."
Jon Wayne Service Co.
Animals need to stay comfortable, too. As employees of Jon Wayne Service Co., San Antonio, Texas, made a presentation before the Kirby, Texas City Council for the installation of a new HVAC system at the town’s animal shelter, they added this kicker: the cost of the $15,000 project would be the company’s gift.
David Herrera, an engineering specialist with Jon Wayne, said the firm’s marketing team first reached out to Kirby about sponsoring some shelter dogs “in an effort to get them adopted a little bit quicker.”
But the Jon Wayne team quickly discovered the shelter had a hard time keeping the dog kennel cool in summer and warm in winter. While the shelter’s office, veterinarian space and cat area already had adequate heating and AC, the large dog kennel was left to the ups and downs of the daily temperature.
“I remember them saying they thought the dogs deserved better than what they had,” he adds. “At night, when it got very cold, they just wanted for them to have a little bit of relief in there. That really touched us, and that’s what really drove us to want to do this for them.”
Herrera says he considered a smaller HVAC system at first, but once he saw the large space atop a concrete slab with little insulation in the walls and ceiling, he knew the Jon Wayne crew would have to install a much larger system.
Workers arrived the day after the City Council meeting to complete the job by the end of that day wrapping before Christmas.
And by the way, each year, Jon Wayne also helps a veteran in need through its Operation Christmas Comfort.
This past holiday season, a Jon Wayne crew installed a new HVAC system and water heater, including electrical and plumbing upgrades for Sergeant Ernest Garcia and Specialist CeCelia Ann Garcia, who both served in the US army. Ernest, wounded during the Vietnam War, has been suffered from cancer for the past four years. Married for 50 years, the Gracias also take care of two granddaughters.
The Jon Wayne crew showed up when Ernest had already left for scheduled medical care. At the end of the day, he returned to his wife and friends for the big makeover.
You can watch video reports on both projects on Jon Wayne’s Facebook page.
B&S Plumbing & Heating Inc.
For the past nine years, the Stewart family, owners of B&S Plumbing, Terra Haute, Indiana have partnered with the local Catholic Charities office to provide food for a holiday feast.
Last year, the program provided more than 400 boxes of food, including hams and turkeys, eggs, dairy products and fresh produce. Even crackers, stuffing mix and Christmas cookies.
The line of cars went around the block one Saturday outside the Benjamin Franklin Elementary School for the drive-through style giveaway. Around two-dozen people volunteered in two separate lines, making sure families weren’t going home empty-handed.
According to press reports, Jennifer Buell, assistant agency director of Catholic Charities, said the turnout is indicative of the need the community has for food.
She said data collected in 2018 showed 38,000 food-needy individuals in the Wabash Valley. Since the beginning of this year, that number has jumped more than 25 percent to nearly 50,000, according to Feeding America.
"Overnight, essentially, the need for food in our seven-county service area rose 25 percent," Buell said. "These individuals are struggling to make ends meet and put food on the table.”
Buell said partners and families like the Stewarts are a big part of helping Catholic Charities keep the community fed.
In under an hour, the Stewarts had handed out all the hams they'd brought to distribute and started giving away whole frozen turkeys.
Sally Stewart called the turnout "unreal," according to a news story published in the Tribune-Star.
Seeing so many families file through, knowing that they might otherwise go without this holiday season, is a humbling experience, Stewart added.
“Every year we come, we see people are so appreciative, so much in need and so thankful for the things we often take for granted,” she said. “We are very fortunate to be able to give back and help others.”
This feature is part of our Plumbers Giving Back series, sponsored by the the International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials (IAPMO).