About The Program

Oil Heat Cares is a not-for-profit foundation that assists needy persons and organizations with the replacement of their oil heating appliances. Funds are raised to purchase heating equipment and NAOHSM’s chapters and members identify those within their neighborhoods that need a temporary helping hand by installing the equipment at no cost to the homeowner. To learn more about Oil Heat Cares, go to www.oilheatcares.com.

Oil Heat Cares (OHC) has turned on heat and hot water for a number of needy families and people since the program got its start two years ago.

A busted boiler would have stayed busted if not for members of National Association of Oil Heat Service Managers’ chapters identifying needs right in their backyards.

Many of these projects started out as routine “no heat” calls, but what techs discovered was “no boiler,” or one just barely coughing out what little heat it could.

The calls became more than routine after NAOHSM members pitched in, documented the need, secured the required equipment by working with Judy Garber, the association’s executive administrator, and, finally, did the hard work for free on a Saturday – after a week of hard work themselves.

Take, for example, Scott Kneeland, Scotland Heating & Air Conditioning, called to a couple’s home at the start of last year’s heating season. What Kneeland found was a Repko boiler that had burned through the back – plus a chronically ill child whose mom needed to tend to his medical needs around the clock and a dad challenged to work longer hours to meet the mortgage and pay the bills.

“I thought this would be a great candidate for OHC,” says Kneeland, who started his business in 2004 with a staff of two, counting himself. “Here was a family that could use a helping hand.”

Instead of quoting a new system, Kneeland called Rick Potheir, Saveway Petroleum, and president of the Eastern Connecticut Chapter. The chapter quickly voted to make this its first OHC project. While Kneeland organized the labor, Garber secured donations of a Weil-McLain boiler and Triangle Tube Phase III indirect hot water heater.

On a Saturday in the middle of October last year, Kneeland met at the home with other chapter members who pitched in, including Chris Jordyn, Independent Connecticut Petroleum Association; Mike McCarthy, McCarthy Heating Oil; and Bill Nye, Nye Plumbing & Heating. Also helping out with product and on hand to help with the job was Greg Sinay, Packtor Co., which donated Bell & Gossett circulators, flow checks, expansion tank and air scoops

It took six hours to finish the job. “They were ecstatic because they had no heat or hot water at the time,” Kneeland says. “It’s been a tough road for them in the last five years since the mom stopped working.”

Here’s a look at just some of the other projects completed since 2004 …

Central Pennsylvania Chapter

Christmas 2004 was just around the corner, along with a baby boy soon to be delivered by a young, single mom-to-be. Crystal Keeseman, along with her parents, had scraped together all the cash they could to purchase a 1940s row house in York, Pa.

Local plumbing and radiant heating contractor Dave Yates, F.W. Behler, patched up the heating system as best he could to ensure that the sale would go through. However, everyone knew that Crystal would need a new heating system just as much as everyone knew no money was left over to pay for it.

Yates had helped raise money for the OHC program, but he wasn’t a NAOHSM member. So he turned the project over to his long-time friend, Tom Sease, who works with NAOHSM member Barry Jacobs, both of Shipley Energy.

Shipley has been in business for more than 75 years. Its service division works on residential and commercial systems and employs more than 60 union techs.

As it turned out, Jacobs knew to the day the age of the home’s current heating system. He shared with us a picture of Shipley’s ledgers showing a Timken Wallflame furnace installed by the company on May 8, 1946.

“The unit was in very poor condition,” Jacobs says. “Fumes were even entering the home; not a great place for a new mom and baby.”

Jacobs decided to convert the heating system from forced air to hot water baseboard. The upstairs of the home was being heated with electric strips, so baseboard needed to be run in all of the rooms.

Like many other OHC projects to come, this early job involved the generosity of plenty of players up and down the supply chain.

Early on, Shipley’s union voted to donate the installation hours. Bill Price, area manager for Weil-McLain, arranged to donate a boiler, and Bob Hopkins, a Weil-McLain sales rep, made a trip to York to size the job. Northeastern Supply donated Slant-Fin baseboard, and R.E. Michel Co. donated the piping and fittings for the boiler installation. Finally, Shipley’s Retail Energy Department donated 100 gallons of heating oil.

On the Saturday before Christmas 2004, no less than 15 Shipley employees showed up to do the work. What they found on the front door was a note from Crystal’s mom saying Crystal’s baby was coming earlier than expected – 5-lb. Brandon came just one day before the installation.

An empty house certainly helped the crew take out the old furnace, install the new boiler, and lay down the baseboard upstairs. The biggest challenge wasn’t boiler-related – eight electrical outlets needed to be raised to make way for the baseboard. The crew also had to upgrade the vent piping from 1 inch and 1 1/4 inches due to new regulations.

Jacobs told us everything went off without a hitch, unless you count the time three men spent chasing after Crystal’s dog, who had decided to take an unscheduled “walk.”

The project went on to win the group’s first Oil Heat Cares Cup handed out at NAOHSM’s Annual Convention and Trade Show last year. The trophy is awarded to the chapter judged to have done the most good with its OHC job and presented oil heat in the most positive way.

Also at last year’s show, PM columnist Dan Holohan and Bob Boltz, Vincent R. Boltz & Son, sold raffle tickets and used the winnings to pay for Crystal’s fuel oil for the 2005/2006 heating season.

Susquehanna Valley Chapter

The Susquehanna Valley Chapter has the bragging rights for completing the first OHC project in November 2004. It’s also one of Garber’s favorites since Bob Dittmar, Dittmar Plumbing, Heating and Oil Service, interested a couple of oil-heat students to help out on the job.

“One of the elements of this program that we like to encourage is working with a local tech school,” Garber says. “It’s a great way to demonstrate to future technicians what our industry is all about. This chapter did just that.”

Dittmar organized much of the project, which got its start as he made a service call to Katherine Yurcheck, Muncy, Pa. At the time, Yurcheck was an 83-year-old widow, her husband, Nick, dying just a year before Dittmar met her that day.

Dittmar knew of Nick, a local electrician, but had never met him. A walk down the basement steps was all Dittmar needed to know about Nick. “I could read the history of his life just by looking around his repair shop. I knew that Nick was just like me and all the other people in the trades. People in the trades will know what I mean. He had lots of cool stuff down there.”

The steam boiler, unfortunately, was another matter. “I was shocked,” he adds. “It was leaking and Kay would have to come down at least twice a day to hand-feed it water.” Dittmar figured fixing it was on Nick’s to-do list, but he had just run out of time.

After explaining the dangers of running the boiler dry, he checked the low water cut-off; it was working, but Dittmar knew replacing the old equipment was necessary. Like many elderly people, however, Yercheck’s main asset was her home. It took all her monthly income to keep up with the basics with nothing left over for this expense.

Dittmar, president at the time of the Susquehanna Valley Chapter, called Garber first thing the next morning and told her about Kay’s situation.

“I wrote down some information and faxed it to Judy,” Dittmar remembers. “By the time I came in for lunch, I had a message from Judy that Burnham would donate a boiler.” Dittmar worked with Pete Depinto, his sales rep from the local R.E. Michel Co. to set up delivery of the V8 boiler; Michel and APR Supply Co. donated other needed supplies. Dittmar adds that local Burnham sales representative Bob Fish, along with Depinto, visited the job, and measured the radiators and house to do the heat loss calculation to make sure the new boiler was sized properly.

Dittmar started his business in 1994, which runs one 2,800-gallon fuel oil truck and two service vans, and provides jobs for six people. Josh Trotter, one of his top techs, volunteered to help out.

Joining those two were: Frank Heintz, Dent Plumbing-Heating & A/C; Rick Taylor, plumbing and heating instructor at the Pennsylvania College of Technology, Williamsport, along with students Chad Hoffer and Bruce Tami.

“The biggest challenge of the job was to adapt the boiler piping from the new boiler to the existing piping of the heating system,” Dittmar says. “But we were done without too much fuss thanks to Frank, the master of black pipe fitting.”

The team also replaced all the steam vents in the house with adjustable vents, and reinsulated all the steam lines in the basement and changed the return pipe in the floor.

“It was a good experience to work with young and old and bring people together for a very rewarding job,” Dittmar says. “We were all proud of the job and of the fact that we helped Kay get something done that Nick just didn’t have time to get around to.”

While Dittmar was unsure of what Tami is up to now, he knew Hoffer is currently in his junior year in a bachelor’s degree program in HVAC technology at the same college.

Trotter has also been back to clean and service the boiler and reports that everything is working well.

“Kay is warm, she is saving on oil, and Nick is smiling down on all of us,” Dittmar says.

Nassau-Suffolk Chapter

Postal carrier Bill Baum cringed when his route took him to the Smithtown, N.Y., town hall. A drinking fountain outside the building had been dedicated years ago to a local soldier killed in the Vietnam War.

Baum fought in the war, too, but he could barely make out the weathered and chipped memorial to Private James Woods. The veteran knew Woods deserved better.

So Baum and other members of a local vets’ group decided to replace the plaque. As they found out more about Woods, however, they also discovered the fallen soldier’s mother Billie Jeanne James and her children were living in a home that needed more work than the plaque. The group adopted the then 75-year-old Gold Star Mom (the army’s designation for a mother whose son is killed in action) and the rest of her family and got to work on some long overdue home repairs.

Several handymen were among the vets, but nobody had the expertise to take on the decrepit heating system. Luckily, Juan LeGrande was taking an oil-heat class taught by Bill Anderson, Meenan Oil. Anderson fought in Vietnam himself. After hearing more from LeGrande, Anderson got the ball rolling on another OHC project.

“The boiler was in terrible shape,” says John Levey, Oilheat Associates. “The base was rotted, the chamber was burned out, the end cone was missing, and there were numerous leaks in the domestic piping – and that’s the good news. Believe it or not, it went downhill from there.”

A team of various oil-heat companies, usually competitors on any day but this one, went to work on a Saturday at 8 a.m., ripping out the old system. The lead contractor was Matt Spink, Slomins, and the crew included Levey along with Oilheat Associates’ Will and Bill Scheiner; John Griffin, General Utilities; Ron Poniatowski Jr. and Bill Anderson, both from Meenan; Wayne Lawrence, Petro; and Bill Rella, Patterson. The supporting cast included Bob Chapman, Advanced Hydronics; Joe Lombardo, Acme-Rasol; and Phil Schwartz, MAS Sales.

After a breakfast break, the oil-heat pros piped in a Thermo-Dynamics boiler complete with Beckett burner, Taco circulator, Honeywell zone valves, plus other related controls, oil line and all the trimmings. Meanwhile, a student from the Oil Heat Institute of Long Island added baseboard to a bathroom upstairs.

“The installation turned out terrific,” Levey says. “The crew went to great lengths to make sure the pipes were level and everything functioned properly. After some adjustments, the work area was left cleaner than when the crew arrived.”

In case you’re wondering about the plaque, Baum sent us an article written about the re-dedication of a replacement. We asked him to take a picture for us, but he was surprised to find out the next day that the drinking fountain, along with the Woods plaque, had been removed.

Just this past January, the Nassau-Suffolk Chapter finished another project that had everyone skeptical at first. Homeowner Anthony Smith, Coram, N.Y., needed a new boiler, but Smith had a union job as a municipal worker – “had” being the operative word.

The previous months hadn’t been kind to Smith and his family of five.

“After speaking with a Newsday reporter who was very familiar with the case, we realized that this was, indeed, an ideal project for OHC,” Garber says. “We found that the father had been unfairly fired from his job for reasons that were totally beyond his control.”

Smith was reinstated after missing five months of work and pay. To get his job back, he agreed not to pursue a lawsuit or seek back pay.

Smith tried to make ends meet while unemployed, but didn’t have enough savings to cover all of his family’s expenses. When he could no longer afford the heating oil, his service contract was cancelled, and he had to buy small quantities of oil from a local COD company.

Needless to say, it wasn’t a high priority to fix the burner that Smith knew wasn’t working properly. When the oil burner started pumping out strong odors, tech Bob O’Brien told Smith that the unit was in dangerous condition and needed immediate replacement.

O’Brien figured this was another job for the OHC. Due to the condition of the unit, the project was quickly approved and the Nassau-Suffolk Chapter put together an installation team. They used much of the same equipment – Thermo Dynamics, Beckett, Honeywell – for this job as they did for the Gold Star Mom.

Lawrence picked up the boiler first thing Saturday morning and brought it over to the jobsite. Levey had just started dismantling the old unit when the MAS Sales truck showed up to bring breakfast for the crew, compliments of Phil Schwartz. Also on hand: from Petro, Joe Macchia, Dan Auciello and Bruno Cizan; Chet Blyman, John Griffin and Steven Smith from General Utilities; not to mention O’Brien, the tech who started it all. Matt Spink, Slomins, gave everyone a lesson in the new aquastats used on the job.

Techs Call The Shots, Too

Even techs starting out their careers can get an OHC project started.

Joseph Albani, a tech with J.S. Shea Fuel, made a service call to a mobile home in Massachusetts last January. Albani, a recent NAOHSM Scholarship winner, found a dangerous situation. Fumes seeped from a cracked heat exchanger on a forced-air furnace in the tight confines of the trailer.

As he spoke with the family, Albani learned that the father was in the hospital recovering from a lung infection contracted shortly after a kidney transplant that he had waited seven years for. Meanwhile, his wife suffered from diabetes, all the while taking care of a special-needs son.

Albani let his boss, Kevin Shea, know about the situation. Shea, a director of the OHC board, organized his Boston Chapter colleagues to provide the family with a new heater. Shea’s company was started by his father in 1959 and currently employs six full-time and two part-time employees.

“We take the time to educate our customers on products and upgrades that can save them money,” Shea says. “Being committed to our customers, I saw the Oil Heat Cares program as an opportunity to help those in need.”

Shea and the Boston Chapter more recently helped an elderly woman living on a fixed income of $635 a month. Shea said the 50-year-old boiler was guzzling oil and still provided only limited lukewarm water. “The homeowner had to heat water on her stove to bathe.”

Thanks to a donation by Smith Cast Iron Boiler, the homeowner can enjoy warmth and hot water.

A Letter Of Thanks

Dear Mrs. Garber,

My name is Anthony Smith, Coram, N.Y. On Sat., Jan. 20, 2006, some wonderful people arrived at our home. With them was a brand-new boiler for our house. It was a lifesaver.

For the life of me, I didn’t know how I was going to keep my family warm and with hot water for the rest of the winter. I know that you have seen the pictures of my boiler. I am still amazed that this was done for us.

John Levey was such an uplifting confidence builder. I never would have thought that there was an organization out there that was filled with such caring and thoughtful people. Mrs. Garber, Oil Heat Cares is a great service. It has changed my life forever. My family and I can’t thank you enough for approving our application. I want to start sending your organization a donation to help it to keep doing the great work that is so needed. I will be retiring in a few years and I want to offer my time in any way that I can. My family and I will be forever grateful to you and Oil Heat Cares. Just keep up the good work!

Many Thanks and Sincere Wishes,

The Smith Family – Anthony, Celestine, Mikhail, Jason and Alexandria


This article is also available at: https://www.pmmag.com/articles/89781-oil-heat-cares-special-supplement-for-plumbing-mechanical-p-projects-at-a-glance