It's been 25 years since Bob Tudi of South Oakland started his own business with a pickup truck and $4,000 -- just about today's cost of installing a new furnace and related equipment and hauling away the old one.
And it's been 14 years since the founder of TUDI Mechanical Systems, a green energy company in McKees Rocks, began the annual Heat for the Needy program in conjunction with Standard Air & Lite of Crafton.
The program, described as a "One Day Miracle" charity event, combines the time and talents of employees and their families as they deliver and install free furnaces in the homes of needy families in the Pittsburgh area.
Each year, Mr. Tudi asks the public to nominate individuals or families who need a new heating system but cannot afford it. In response, he has selected from eight to 12 nominees a year to receive new furnaces. The deadline for nominations this year is Nov. 30.
Last January, the companies installed 12 new furnaces and repaired four others. They also did a free rewiring job for a homeowner and updated heating equipment for two religious facilities. More than 125 employees participated in the effort.
Stacy Zatek, TUDI's marking coordinator, said Standard Air provides furnaces and money to buy components for the installations. It also delivers furnaces to TUDI, where they are placed on the trucks of service technicians to be delivered on installation day. She said some Standard Air employees also help with the installations.
"This year we would like to install 15 furnaces and make about five repairs," Ms. Zatek said. The companies have installed 123 new furnaces, each with a value of $3,000, for a total of $369,000.
If you'd like to nominate someone for a new furnace, send a letter that includes background information on an individual or family's circumstances, current form of heat, address and phone number. Recipients must reside within TUDI's residential service area. Go to www.tudi.com to check.
Ms. Zatek said nominations typically come from family members, friends, neighbors "and even strangers who wish to touch someone's heart during the holiday season." It also asks nominators to provide their names and phone numbers.
Nominations can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org or mailed to Heat for the Needy, c/o TUDI Mechanical Systems, 343 Munson Ave., McKees Rocks, PA 15136.
The company evaluates and validates each nomination. After an initial selection of potential recipients, Ms. Zatek said personal visits are made to their homes to further qualify their level of need. It then makes the final selection of recipients. The new furnaces and related equipment will be installed Jan. 26.
That day will begin with a buffet breakfast at company headquarters for employees and volunteers, continue with the installation of the new furnaces and removal of the old ones and end with a buffet dinner at headquarters. It's celebrated by all as a great way to start the new year.
Because fall and winter are the busiest times of the year for TUDI and Standard Air, they haven't been able to move up the dates for the close of nominations, vetting the nominees and installation of the new furnaces.
But you can give them a head start -- and participate in -- the "One Day Miracle" by nominating a deserving individual or family for a new furnace.
By the way, for the second year in a row, TUDI was named one of the best places to work in the Post-Gazette's second annual Top Work Places in Western Pennsylvania.
TUDI was also the recipient of the American Business Ethics Award sponsored by the Pittsburgh Chapter of the Society of Financial Service Professionals and the Katz Graduate School of Business at the University of Pittsburgh.
Lawrence Walsh can be reached at email@example.com and 412-263-1895. Please include your name and day, evening and/or cell phone number(s). Due to volume, he cannot respond to every email and phone call.