Helping hands heat up the community

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Heat is something that is essential in the winter months in Philadelphia, yet there are families across the region that don’t have access to it, and that in itself is a huge problem. To alleviate that issue and to find a way to give back to the community, one local company is acting as angels of warmth for 4 to 5 families this year alone.

Oliver Heating & Cooling from Morton, Pennsylvania, for the past 22 years has offered their Heat for the Holidays program where they reach out to local community leaders, residents, and social media to identify families who are in need of a new heating system but cannot afford the cost of replacement.

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“We wanted to find a way to give something back to the community in the way of heating systems. Most businesses get hit with a lot of ways to donate, but we just thought we’d go the extra mile for people in our area who might have fallen on hard times,” says Bernie Sweeney, Senior Vice President at Oliver Heating & Cooling. “Over the years the program has grown.”

Grown it has, every year since the Heat for Holidays program debuted in 1999, Oliver has received anywhere from 15 to 30 submissions of people nominating friends, family members or themselves for the service. A committee at the HVAC company then sifts through the letters and picks out 4 or 5 families that need it most. Then, on the second Saturday of the new year (in this case Jan. 9, 2021) the heating systems will be installed in the different residencies.

“Anybody can do it, you can go ahead and submit a nomination online, and you can even nominate yourself. It’s a very difficult process because you read one and think wow, they could really use it, and then you read the next one and then you think wow, they could really use it too,” explains Sweeney. “Sometimes people will nominate someone and we will go and they don’t need a whole new heating system but they need a tune-up, so we will give them a free tune-up or maintenance to make sure it’s operating safely or properly. That’ll help us decide which families are going to be in this.”

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According to the release, each installation is complete, and 100% free to the recipients. In the previous years of operating the program, 65 heating systems have been donated to families in need throughout the Delaware Valley. Heat for the Holidays is one of the most anticipated days on the Oliver calendar, and a tradition that the company hopes to continue for years to come. This year with the pandemic’s effects still looming, this service is more needed than ever.

“We know that there’s a lot of people out there that have been dramatically affected by the loss of a job or a loss of income—business owners and restaurants and places like that have been seriously affected,” continues Sweeney. “We are open to helping whoever is in a hard time.”

Submissions for this year’s Heat for the Holidays are open until Nov. 16, and everyone can be nominated as long as they reside in Oliver’s service areas (Chester, Delaware, Montgomery, and Philadelphia counties in Pennsylvania; New Castle County in Delaware; and Atlantic, Cape May, Cumberland, Gloucester, and Salem counties in New Jersey.) After some review, families are notified right before Christmas that they are one of the lucky recipients.

“It’s a great feeling to tell people they’re getting a new heating system, they’re very pleased to get that news because the ones that need it really do. They just feel uplifted and a lot of them will share with me that God has touched them in some way and brought us all together to be able to do this with them. It’s kind of a more emotional time, you’re really hitting the target when you’re doing it for people who are really in a tough spot,” says Sweeney. “We’re really thankful that we have our partners that help us with the program. They’ve donated money to the program each year and parts and pieces that allow us to put in more heaters—especially WSFS Bank—that has supported this program financially for many years and Lennox Industries, Lyon Conklin, US Supply, and J Lorber Supply, who contributed equipment and materials.”

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“It’s enriched my life in many ways, I take a lot of joy out of the fact that our team—I’m so amazed at how many volunteers we get of people who will give up a Saturday, come in and help. We get 40 to 50 people who will come in and say, hey we’re here if you need me, it’s an enjoyable day,” says Sweeney. “We’re just thrilled and honored to be able to be in a position to help others.”

Submissions for Oliver Heating & Cooling can be made through oliverheatcool.com.

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