It doesn’t get cozy inside Donna Scism’s East Anchorage trailer, since her furnace went out last year. On her fixed income, she can’t afford a new one, so she spends more than 18 hours a day in bed. It’s the only room small enough to warm with a propane heater, under a few blankets.

“I just exist,” said Scism, as she coughs loudly.

Bound to an oxygen tank, Scism says her respiratory problems — COPD, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease — get worse in the cold. But staying warm in bed also has a price.

“I was always a very active person,” said Scism. “And being confined is, it’s killing me, to be truthful. That’s what my doctor said.”

After spending last month in the hospital, Scism’s friend had enough. She nominated her for Circle Plumbing and Heating’s annual furnace giveaway.

Scism thought she was just a finalist for the gift Saturday; she says she was overjoyed when she heard the news. But when the doorbell rang mid-afternoon, it was for the grand giveaway. A brand new furnace, with a big red bow.

“Thank you so much,” said Scism as she fought back tears.

She won’t be spending Christmas in the cold this year. It’s a gift that came just in time, she says, to save her life.


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