Circle Plumbing and Heating made the holidays a little merrier for two Anchorage families.
For the second year, they asked Facebook followers to nominate families to receive a new furnace; for the second year they weren’t able to come up with just one winner.
On a chilly Alaskan evening, the inside of Alberto Caballero’s home was almost just as cold as the air outside.
“This is our stove we’ve been using,” he said, gesturing to the oven in his kitchen. “We just turn the one burner on because the gas adds up.”
Propane is his primary source of heat since his boiler went out earlier this year.
“We have to stay warm. I’m not going to freeze,” he said. “We keep a window open so carbon monoxide doesn’t build up.”
His family is also trying to make do with space heaters, but all the electricity costs add up. It’s not just himself he’s worried about keeping warm: He takes care of his brother, Juan, who’s been on dialysis for 10 years.
“They put three needles in my arm today,” said Juan, tears welling up in his eyes.
Together they’re struggling to get by. Asking for help isn’t easy for Alberto.
“I’m not used to it,” he said. “The way I was raised you worked hard to get what you want. If you want something really bad, you work harder.”
He’s on a fixed income; social security and disability. Earlier this year he also had extensive roof damage after a storm. With all those expenses, it’s been hard to save money.
One look at his rusted, corroding boiler and it’s clear why it’s out of commission. It’s the original boiler installed when the house was built in 1972.
“They told us don’t even try to turn it on,” he said.
That’s why his daughter-in-law, Alma, submitted his name for Circle Plumbing and Heating’s furnace giveaway.
Alberto thought he one of three finalists.
“Maybe the other two people are more deserving and I would rather them have it,” he said. “I have faith that when I need it the most, it will come through.”
Alberto’s faith paid off.
“Circle Plumbing and Heating is here,” he said in disbelief as a van pulled into his driveway.
He opened his front door slowly and realized he’s not just a finalist.
“You guys got my legs trembling. Did I win?” he asked, tears running down his cheek.
His eyes were filled with hope and gratitude as he received his Christmas wish.
“We wanted to let you know you are the winner of the boiler,” said Larry Embley, Circle’s owner. “We’d like to put it in your house for you; from our family at Circle to yours.”
Staff will donate their time to install the boiler donated by Proctor Sales. For the company, the giveaway is about spreading holiday cheer and warm wishes.
“The look on their face is just priceless. I love every minute of it,” Embley said.
He said heat can be something many families often take for granted — until you meet a family like the Caballeros.
The boiler is much more than an appliance for Alberto; it’s peace of mind and the knowledge that he and his family won’t be left out in the cold.
“You’ve got to do what you’ve got to do when you’re struggling like this,” he explained. “You can’t afford stuff and you hate to ask people but then people like you guys come around and, wow: It’s just totally awesome.”
The Raspberry neighborhood has been Anne Honer’s home for the past four years. She’s getting ready to pack up and move across town to a new home, one that doesn’t have a good furnace.
“The last time it was serviced was in 1992. It was the original furnace from ’86 I believe,” she said.
Reading from the inspection paperwork, she described some of the problems.
“It has rust and corrosion in the burn chambers,” she said.
Anne entered Circle Plumbing and Heating’s furnace giveaway and shared her story of being a newly single mom dealing with medical problems.
“I’ve been having migraines for the past three years which has reduced my income greatly in that I’m only able to work a few hours a week,” she said. “But I do my best to keep moving forward.”
Like Alberto, Anne thought she’d made it into the top three finalists. She held out hope she and her 8-year-old son, Jacob, will get the furnace they need.
Then there’s a knock at the door.
“Are you Anne? I’m T.J. Embley with Circle Plumbing and Heating. We’d like to present you with a Carrier furnace, you are the winner,” Embley said.
Anne broke down in tears and gave each of the men a hug.
“Oh my gosh,” she sobbed. “You guys are helping my son, too.”
Donating the furnace is a small way for the company to make a big impact; at least for the Honer family.
“We’ve been a part of this community for over 40 years and being able to give back to the community is the driving force behind us,” Larry Embley said.
“I can’t say words. I’m just so thankful,” Anne said, admiring her new Carrier furnace. “I won’t have any worries. That was the last worry of the house. I just can’t believe it.”
Circle will install the new furnace at Anne’s new home after the holidays, which are made all the more merry by the company’s generosity.