Christmas came early for the Kraus family of Delmont when they received a free furnace last week through the VFW/Gillece Free Furnace Program.
Ed Kraus, 35, is a disabled veteran whose 11-year service includes 15 months in Iraq and humanitarian and drug task force missions in Central America. He is one of hundreds of steel workers who have been locked out of the job at Allegheny Technologies’ Leechburg plant for four months.
“I went to put the furnace on and it didn’t work,” he said, standing in his basement as installers outfitted his three-bedroom home with a new furnace valued at about $5,000.
An inspection also revealed a carbon monoxide leak, a potentially dangerous problem, which was remedied with the replacement of Mr. Kraus’ 30-year-old gas furnace.
Mr. Kraus learned of the free furnace program through the Veterans Leadership Program of Western Pennsylvania located on the Southside. After submitting the proper paperwork to the VFW, the family had its new furnace within two weeks.
“They provide me with military discharge papers, and they have to prove some sort of financial need like a shut-off notice or proof of late mortgage payments,” said Elizabeth Salvadore of the VFW. “Then we just verify that they are the owners of the home,” she added.
This is the third winter that Gillece, a plumbing, heating the cooling contractor, has partnered with the VFW, and so far, the Bridgeville company has donated a furnace and installation to 14 veterans in Allegheny, Armstrong, Beaver, Butler, Fayette, Washington or Westmoreland Counties. At this time, gas furnace systems are the only heating systems that can be donated.
“We are in the works right now to hopefully extend the program with oil and electric furnaces,” Ms. Salvadore said.
Company owner Tom Gillece pays his employees to install the free furnaces, but he said many offer to do it for free.
“It such a nice gesture to have all of your employees so touched by trying to help people out,” he said.
And even though the weather so far has been mild, help came just in time for the seven-member Kraus household. The temperatures inside were getting cooler.
“We were looking at using space heaters. We were using our oven, turning it off and opening the door to let the heat in,” said Mr. Kraus’ wife, Jamie. The living room fireplace and extra blankets also provided some heat for the Kraus’ three school-aged children. Mr. Kraus’ father and brother-in-law are also living in the home.
“This is much better. It’s a huge relief because I didn’t have a backup plan,” Mrs. Kraus said.
However, Mr. Kraus does have a backup plan for his career. He will be finishing his business degree in May.
“I hope there are no cold veterans out there and they get to know about this program,” said Mr. Kraus.