Anchorage woman gets heartwarming surprise
With temperatures below freezing this December, Anchorage resident Ethel Sechler has no heat in her home except for her oven and a small space heater in the corner of her living room.
“It’s been like, what 13 or 14 degrees, so the house needed a little bit of help,” Sechler said. “I only leave the oven on for a couple of minutes just enough to get a little extra heat to help the space heater and this gets turned off and we just go with that heater.”
Her furnace was cracked by the recent earthquake, causing carbon dioxide to leak into her home.
“I came home on Tuesday and the Enstar guy was out there and it was like, 'Oh my goodness,'” Sechler said.
Sechler was left with no heat or hot water, and looking for a way to get a new furnace to help her stay warm.
“It’ll feel so good to get heat back in the house. Then I’ll be able to have hot water heater turned on, so I can wash clothes and dishes and everything else,” she said. “I’m using the little hot pot to heat up the water.”
When she isn’t at home with her cat, Sechler can be found helping customers at her two jobs: one at McDonald's off Abbott Road, and the other running the cashier register at the Carrs Safeway store in Jewel Lake — jobs she says she truly loves.
“I enjoy people and these jobs connect me with people,” Sechler said. “I love reaching out and helping out people. I take care of them and do little things for them. You know, we live in a broken world; sometimes a simple smile and a pleasant word can make someone’s day.”
She's lived in her home for the last 29 years and says even though she wasn’t born in Alaska, she has come to call the state home.
“This is the place you either love or you don’t,” Sechler said. “It’s a place that you can embrace, enjoy and encourage people and I just love it here I don’t want to be anywhere else.”
When she talks about about her friends at work and church, she'll say she’s very blessed.
Little did she know, all of that kindness she put into the world was about to be repaid.
Sechler was nominated by an anonymous friend to receive a new furnace from Circle Plumbing & Heating, an annual holiday tradition for the company. Her brand-new furnace will be set up Tuesday, free of charge.
This is the fifth year Circle Plumbing & Heating has given away the gift of heat to those in need.
“We wanted to do something in remembrance of my granddad,” said Larry Embley, president of Circle Plumbing & Heating. “We figured why not give someone a Christmas gift who is in need of something? That is so easy for us to do.”
Embley's grandfather, Lawrence "Lee" Embley, founded the company more than 45 years ago. His family said he was an advocate for giving back to the community and loved his Alaska life in every way possible. Larry delivered the good news with his brother Kyle, his cousin TJ and his father Ken.
For the Embleys, this particular gift was more personal. Larry and Sechler had crossed paths before, and he remembered the kind woman from when he was younger.
“I remember you from years ago," he told her Friday as a team delivered the furnace to her house. "You were a major part of our life. I came into Carrs and you would be the most positive person in the world. The way you talked and treated us — it's an honor to give this to you.”
Sechler was shocked.
“I don’t know how or what to say except thank y’all so much,” she said, through tears.
While Sechler waits for her new furnace, the business has brought over multiple space heaters to keep her warm.
“I am just so thankful,” Sechler said. "You never know how much something like heat could make a world of a difference in someone’s life. I so can’t wait to tell everyone at work.”
And so it was that years of unsung graces, acts of kindness for people she didn't know, led to Ethel Sechler's own story of heartwarming generosity.
Correction: An earlier version of this story misidentified Ethel Sechler as Irene Sechler.
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