Good Neighbors

Nominate Someone to Get a New Furnace in "Heat for the Needy"

20th Annual "Heat for the Needy" program taking applications for free furnaces for neighbors who can't afford them.


Once upon a time, a kindly HVAC technician encountered a customer whose furnace had a hole in it. The customer couldn't afford to fix it, and the tech felt guilty leaving her in the cold. He shared the story with his generous boss, who gave him a furnace and permission to install it on his own time. "The worker's face lit up like a Christmas tree after he did it," described Tudi Mechanical Systems' Kevin Bright, telling the story like it's legend.

And that's how Tudi's " Heat for the Needy " program was born.

In the 20 years since that first installation, owner Bob Tudi has grown what the company likes to call their "One Day Miracle," installing nearly 220 free furnaces in the homes of needy neighbors in the Pittsburgh region. "We've had success and one of the benefits is the ability to give back," explained Tudi's Jeff Vandergrift. The effort even has a corporate sponsor, Dollar Bank .

Tudi starts taking applications in August for the 15 furnaces they will donate on "install day" the following January (this year it's Saturday, January 26, 2019). On that one day, 160 volunteers -- employees, family, friends and vendors will contribute their day to help change lives. "I bring my kids a lot of people bring their spouses," said Jeff.

Tudi typically receives 100-150 nomination letters. A committee narrows down the list to those who have the highest level of need. A small team does home visits to evaluate each homeowner's furnace and what the install teams will have to do from a technical standpoint. Then they whittle down the list to "identify the candidates that really fit the mold and the people who need it the most," explained Jeff.

After that it's all hands on deck, coordinating with vendors who donate the equipment -- furnaces, ductwork, plumbing supplies, and the expert tradespeople needed for each job. "The employees really take ownership," said Kevin. "Sometimes they'll come back. We've done plumbing, new electrical panels because what they had wasn't safe. The focus has been on heating systems, but if our employees encounter other dangerous situations we don't turn our back on it."

The final cut off for nominations is the end of December (despite what it says on the Tudi website). The easiest way to apply is on line . You can also write a nomination letter to Tudi Mechanical Systems, 343 Munson Avenue, McKees Rocks, PA 15136.

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