It's no surprise that fall ushers us towards winter and winter is cold in NE Indiana. What also is no surprise, is the number of vulnerable home owners that contact NeighborLink for HVAC issues each year. It never ceases to amaze us just how many people in our community are heating their homes with space heaters, their ovens, and all kinds of other really expensive and dangerous ways because they're unable to afford the $2000 - $4000 furnace replacement cost. This reality digs that home owner into a deep financial hole each winter as they rely on social service agencies to pick up the heating cost bills or they end up having to abandon their homes for the winter causing even bigger problems with frozen pipes. So, HVAC projects are heavy on our hearts in the fall and winter.
We were determined to do our best to help at least a couple of homeowners get new furnaces this year. It all started with a super-volunteer, Gay, who decided to enlist her family to fundraise for furnaces with the challenge of doing the local polar plunge on New Year's Day if they were successful in raising the funds. With that campaign started and NL staff starting to look into a few furnaces to consider replacing, we started to have conversations with friends about our efforts. We then tied a furnace project to the ticket sales of our year-end event, which led to one of our supporters (Jerriah) creating a fundraiser of his own where he made stained-glass feathers for a donation. That campaign generated $785 raised towards a furnace, which only made his desire to do more increase. He and his wife held a holiday party at the beginning of December and asked people to bring a donation. They ended up raising over $1200 that night and when combined with the #FeathersForHeat campaign, completely funded a furnace for a neighbor named Bob. Thanks, Jerriah and Brandy. Your efforts kicked off an incredible month.
At the same time Jerriah and Brandy were planning their fundraisers, we had some Team NeighborLink athletes decide they wanted to create a $1000 fundraiser to help put a furnace in a neighbor's house as well as a way to add a layer of meaning to their desire to run a 50K trail run called, The Huff 50k. Shawn, Jake, and Molly set up their campaign and we found a senior woman on a fixed income named, Elizabeth, who had a furnace with a cracked heat exchanger, which poses a carbon monoxide risk for her and ultimately can't be fixed. So, the #KeepElizabethWarm campaign was created and we set out to fund this project. They hit their $1,000 relatively quickly and decided to extend their campaign to $1500 and then once that hit, they went for the whole $2100 goal, which they hit just last week. They tackled the Huff 50k this past Saturday and ended up in 5th place in the relay category. Thanks, Mitch Harper for donating a relay team entry fee for these guys. They had 19 donors that gave an average of $112 towards this project. Furnace 2 was completed.
We received a $5000 grant from Home Depot over a year ago that allowed us to help veterans with home repair projects. We had about $2500 left on that grant and as we were scoping out furnace projects, we came across a gentleman named Larry who's electric furnace was dead. So, we were able to cover the cost of a new gas furnace with that grant and Brightpoint (Formerly, CANI) stepped in and is going to cover Doc Dancer's labor cost to install a new furnace. We're now waiting on Nipsco to run a gas line to his mobile home to get this completed, but that's Furnace #3 funded for the month.
During all this, we had completed two Team NeighborLink Night Moves running events that generated $1300 in donations that we were going to put towards these furnace projects as well as the funding we received from our year-end event and what Gay had fundraised to-date. In total, we had over $2300 in funding for furnaces. Because we had such success in fundraising so far in December, we decided to try to fund a 4th furnace with the hopes that maybe we could also do a 5th. We had one more furnace in mind for a single-mother named, Maria. Her furnace was 30 years old and no longer worked. We created another fundraising campaign (#WarmMariaUp) to raise the $2200 needed for that campaign and designated $500 from our furnace fund to seed the project. Within an hour of that campaign going live with a mass email to our donors, we had a generous donation from Josh and his wife that covered remaining cost of Maria's furnace. The very next day, Doc Dancer was on the scene installing her new furnace. Maria only speaks Spanish and in an effort to communicate with her, we asked our friend Raul who's never done a NL project before to call and let her know she'd be getting a new furnace. We're grateful for people like Raul that help in the small ways, which gives us proof that small things do change neighborhoods. Maria could fully understand what was happening and we needed Raul to help make that happen. Furnace 4 funded.
We've still got $1800 in funding to go towards furnace projects and we're going to try to fund a 5th and 6th furnace yet this year. We're scoping out two projects today in the hopes that both of them will be projects we can bring to you all as opportunities to extend the blessing of heat this winter. We thought we could only get maybe two furnaces funded before the end of the year when we started this effort, and we're closing in on 5 or 6 furnaces. Proof that Fort Wayne is a generous community, people will do extraordinary things for NeighborLink, and that God is always at work in, through, and on behalf of his people whether they know it or not.