WILLMAR -- Two families are grateful they will be warm and comfortable this winter, thanks to new furnaces to be installed today by furnace manufacturer Lennox and Chappell Central, the local Lennox dealer.
"This is Christmas early at our house," Dianne Parker said.
Parker, a divorced mom of two children, purchased a home in southwest Willmar last fall and moved into the home in December. The 1950s-era home came with all the necessary appliances, but they and the furnace are old. In fact, the furnace is 32 years old. Parker was nominated to receive a new furnace by her co-workers at Jennie-O Turkey Store.
Parker and Mark and Ellen Sorgatz, of rural Sacred Heart, are both recipients of new furnaces thanks to the Heat Up Minnesota program by Lennox and its dealers.
Randy Sather, residential sales representative at Chappell Central in Willmar, explained that the program started a few years ago in Wisconsin, with Lennox providing the furnaces to families in need and the local dealers providing the labor and materials needed to complete the installations.
Not to be outdone by the Wisconsin dealers, the Minnesota dealers decided they would join the program, Sather said.
The company sought nominations until September and narrowed down the potential recipients to four semifinalists before asking local Chappell officials to pick one recipient, Sather explained. He visited the homes to examine the furnaces and then sought permission from Lennox to give away two furnaces instead of one, before determining that both the Parker and Sorgatz families would receive the new high-efficiency furnaces.
All 100 furnaces will be installed on Saturday, according to the Heat Up Minnesota website. Sather expects the Chappell crews to have the work completed in about four hours at each home.
Parker's co-workers got together and decided they would nominate the cost accounting clerk for the program, but they didn't tell her that information, she explained. In fact, they didn't fess up to their actions until after Sather had contacted Parker earlier this week to tell her she had been nominated and was a finalist.
She's very grateful for the program and the nomination.
"I need to say a huge thank you to my co-workers," she said. "Thanks from me and my kids."
The Sorgatz family lives in a 142-year-old house with a 35-year-old fuel oil furnace that can burn more than 30 gallons of fuel oil a day attempting to keep the house warm on very cold days, according to Ellen Sorgatz, who nominated her family for the Heat Up program.
Sorgatz suffered a brain aneurysm and two strokes about four years ago, and has difficulty staying warm due to her medical conditions. She and Mark, who has had his own medical challenges with a heart attack last fall, have a blended family of four children. They feel blessed by the furnace program, Ellen said.
"This new furnace is such a blessing for our family," she said. "We are very, very fortunate and very grateful for the opportunity to get a new furnace."