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Heat for the holidays

By Heather Hintze 8:29 AM December 20, 2013

Two families compete for a free furnace from Circle Plumbing and Heating

ANCHORAGE – In Alaska, a warm home shouldn’t be a luxury, but not every family can afford to keep their heating systems up to date.

Circle Plumbing and Heating wanted to give away a furnace and installation services to a family in need. It put out a call on Facebook for people to share their stories. The one with the most votes would win.

Two stories quickly rose to the top.


Being a parent comes with a lot of responsibilities.  For Stephanie Cornwell-George and her husband Randall, the top priority is making sure their two boys are happy and healthy.

Brayden, 7, and Parker, nearly 4, were both diagnosed with autism and anxiety.

The family has a climbing wall in their living room for the boys to scale and jump off of onto billowy blue mats. Stephanie said wall helps them with their sensory needs, especially Parker.

“He’s a seeker of big motions, significant movement, loud noises. The most content I’ve ever seen him was at a hockey game,” she said. ”So climbing is really helpful to him.”

Dealing with the boys’ special needs can be challenging enough, but the family also has to worry about keeping their house warm.

Their furnace isn’t big enough to meet the home’s needs.

“It kicks off and we have to come out and reset it sometimes,” Stephanie explained.

Stephanie’s parents moved in with them a few years ago. They finished the basement and renovated a bathroom for her disabled father. The furnace can’t keep up with the extra square footage, but spending up to $10,000 to replace it isn’t in the budget.

“I worry that I’m going to come home to frozen pipes, or our fiddling’s not going to fix it. There are no resources. When I got laid off last year my retirement account helped us live. There’s nothing right now to call on to do that,” Stephanie said. ”If it goes, it’s gone. That’s what would keep a roof over my family’s head.”

Randall agreed.

“I’m going to school full time and she’s working full time, it would be a huge relief to have something to rely on.”

That’s why they entered Circle Plumbing and Heating’s Furnace Giveaway on Facebook.

Their story got more than 200 “likes” and was in the running to win.

They had some stiff competition, though.


De Fleischer has had her hands full raising seven kids.

“Time has gone by so fast and I notice how much they’ve grown, especially since these pictures,” she said, flipping through old family photo albums.

Her husband is retired from the military. Four of her seven kids still live at home.

“Even though we’re siblings and we argue, but when the time comes we stand together,” said 17-year-old Deborah Fleischer, the youngest of the kids.

They’ve been in the same house since Deborah was a baby, but the furnace is much older and giving out.

“I’m worried it’s going to blow out, especially in the middle of the winter, and we’re not going to be able to keep ourselves warm,” Deborah said.

“We have needed a furnace since we moved in here 17 years ago,” De said. “Every time we’ve had it serviced they said, ‘You need a new furnace.’ We’re like, ‘Yeah, we need money first,’” she laughed.


With the two families in need getting equal support from the Facebook community, there was only one thing Circle Plumbing and Heating could do.

“We have two furnaces, free install for both of you,” announced owner Larrry Embley at a small ceremony in Circle’s garage.

Stephanie was especially overwhelmed, since her family had been in second place.

“It’s a huge relief,” she said. ”We’re going to visit grandma for a little while for five days here over the holidays. I’ll be able to leave my house and not have to worry about it freezing and things being destroyed.”

The contest brought her and De together, first as competitors and now as friends.

“I helped her post her link today and I knew she was going to get the furnace she needed,” she said, gesturing to De. “It’s just really great we get one too,” said Stephanie as she choked back tears.

“I was flabbergasted,” De said. “It was just awesome. Now I’m going to cry. I’m just so happy.”

Carrier, the furnace manufacturer, donated one of the furnaces and Circle picked up the cost of the other and the installation.

Embley said the giveaway isn’t just about helping families in need, it’s also about honoring the family legacy his grandfather left behind.

“My granddad would be so happy knowing we’re doing this. With the contest being so close you couldn’t just have one person win,” Embley said. ”It makes it better by having the two people win.”

Both families say the act of generosity truly embodies the Christmas spirit, and Circle is glad to send them home with more that just warm wishes this holiday season.

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