News From Terre Haute, Indiana

December 7, 2013

Operation Warm Christmas: Giving warmth

Combined efforts of Wabash Valley business, national distributor give new heating systems to two famlies

Dianne Frances D. Powell
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — Crews from a Wabash Valley heating and cooling business traveled in two different directions — one went north and the other south — during the early, cold Saturday hours with one mission for the day: to bring warmth to two Terre Haute homes this season.

 The technicians at Paitson Bros Heating and Air Conditioning and a representative from its furnace supplier, Lennox Industries, volunteered their time and talents to help keep two families safe and warm this winter.

As part of Operation Warm Christmas, Paitson Bros and Lennox Industries have partnered to provide two families in need with a brand new Lennox heating system. Lennox Industries supplied a high efficiency gas furnace to one home and an electric air handler to the other. Paitson Bros supplied the labor, thermostat, gas pipe and other necessary equipment for installation.

All free of charge to the families.

Paitson Bros General Manager Ethan Rayburn said this is the company’s — and the employees’ — way of giving back to the community.

 “Our guys [are] skilled at putting in furnaces. One way we can contribute and give back to Terre Haute is to do furnace work,” he said.

Especially during the holidays.

“This is the time of year when we are receiving a gift. It’s our way of giving a gift back,” Rayburn said.

And this gift was substantial.

The retail value of the gas furnace installed at one of the homes was about $4,500, Rayburn said. The electric one cost about $3,000.

Jerad Adams, Lennox territory manager, drove from Indianapolis to deliver the furnaces to the homes Saturday.

“We are thrilled to be able to provide these Lennox gas furnace products while they have agreed to install them at no charge to the families selected in Operation Warm Christmas. We take heart in knowing these families will be comfortable Christmas morning,” he said.

An early

Christmas gift

And as technicians worked on putting in the new electric heating system in her northside home, Nicole Schell held her 4-month-old daughter, Emmalin, as she sat on her living room sofa speaking of her gratitude for this gift.

When she found out she was nominated by her 5-year-old daughter’s teacher/case manager for Operation Warm Christmas, she was “very grateful, hopeful, excited.”

Upon learning that the family had been identified to receive the gift, she was “overly excited.”

“I think he [her husband] remembers me screaming,” the mother of three daughters said.

Nicole, her husband, Lawrence and their three children — Madison, Abigail and Emmalin — had been living in the 40-year-old home for two years without a heating system. The foreclosed house did not have a heating system when they got it.

The husband and wife said they could not afford a heating system.

“I’ve been having job problems for the past two years,” Lawrence said, as he sat beside his wife and daughter in the living room.

So they did what they could.

“You just do anything you can to make sure the house is warm,” Nicole said.

“We were just trying to get by with what we can,” she said adding that at one point, they used ovens and dryer vents “to heat the place.”

For years, they used space heaters, which can be unsafe and unreliable.

“I was always scared of the kids touching them,” Nicole said.

The furnace was much needed and the gesture appreciated.

“I just think it’s amazing what they’re doing for my family,” Lawrence said as he looked at his wife. “Me going without heat is one thing. Having her and the kids go without heat is a whole other thing.”

So this gift means a lot for the family.

“It’s a guarantee that my kids have heat,” Nicole said, and this shows there are “generous and nice people” out there.

And the gift came just in time.

“It’s really good timing. It’s like a big, early Christmas gift,” she said.

“Warm At Heart”

In another part of the house, Paitson Bros lead serviceman Bob Miller worked on the installation.

“I’m there,” he said of his reaction when he first heard of the project.

It was a way for him to give back to the community.

“We got a family in need and we can share what God’s given us,” Miller, who has been working at Paitson Bros for more than 3 years, said.

He said God has given the free gift of love so he wanted to “turn around and give a gift to the family in need and keep them warm.”

Miller estimated volunteering close to 10 hours of work between the two homes. About five employees volunteered their time Saturday.

At the southside home, Daniel Lindsay, an installation technician, also spoke of giving back as he replaced the outdated mercury thermostat with a new digital one.

“I got heat at home. Not everybody does. I’m fortunate I got heat,” he said, so participating in the project was his way of sharing his time and skills.

“It’s just a good way to give back to the community and the families in need,” Lindsay, who put in an eight-hour work day, said.

And it also feels great to give back.

“It puts a smile on your face,” especially considering how cold it is outside, Lindsay said.

“It just makes you feel warm at heart,” he added.

“A [Warm] Home”

As Lindsay and other crew members worked on the installation of the new gas furnace, homeowner Christina Crist, her 5-year-old daughter Sophie and mother-in-law Janet Volkers told the Tribune-Star about the family’s recent struggles and hopes for a brighter future in their new home.

Christina and Adam Crist just closed on the 60-year-old, two bedroom southside home — their first — Friday.

But their search for their own home was prompted by a recent tragedy that occurred at the residence the family shared with Adam’s mom, Janet.

On September, the couple’s 15-year-old daughter committed suicide.

“I’m not gonna keep living in the same house. You gotta move on. You can’t stay lingering … with all the negative memories,” Adam told the Tribune-Star during a phone interview.

“I’m trying to rebuild from that and start over,” he said.

So with Janet’s help, Adam started the search for the home.

“When he walked into this house,” Janet said, “he said he felt calm. Very much at peace. It’s like he belonged here.”

He surprised his wife with it after putting in an offer.

“He purchased a house for us and he did a wonderful job,” Christina said as she stood inside her new home.

With tears in her eyes, Christina said the recent struggles “just brought us to a home” where the family can start over.

Having a house is “a fresh, new start … something that’s yours,” she said.

“It’s just a lot of answered prayers,” she added.

And one of the answered prayers was the donation of the furnace.

“Thank you, God,” was Christina’s reaction upon hearing about the gift.

“When God is working, everything seems to fall into place. The only answer is God,” Christina said. “I really felt like it was a gift.”

During the house inspection, carbon monoxide and other problems were discovered and the furnace was deemed unsafe to use. So Janet nominated the family for Operation Warm Christmas.

One Sunday morning after the house inspection, Janet said, “I was praying about an answer for them.”

“And then I just turned it over to God.”

Then, she picked up the Tribune-Star and found the information about Operation Warm Christmas.

“The furnace is just a big answer to prayer,” Janet said.

Christina said the gift of the furnace frees up some much-needed funds for the new house and “we can pick out” the needed items “as a family unit together.”

They plan to be moved in by Christmas.

Adam was very “grateful” for the gift.

“We’re really happy and thankful that we are getting it,” he said.

After all the setbacks the family had been through, it means a great deal when people help out, he said.

“Just people showing compassion for other people is the most relevant currency there is in a civilization...”

And he is looking forward to the “family being together and just making a home.”

“Not just a house,” he said. “A home.”

Tribune-Star Reporter Dianne Frances D. Powell can be reached at 812-231-4299 or