"Heat U.P. Wis." Donates Furnace to Military Family in Wausau

By: Madeline Anderson Email
By: Madeline Anderson Email

On a chilly October morning, the kids at 807 Grant St. in Wausau don't mind playing outside in their backyard. That's because they know once they go inside, it'll be warm.

Lennox dealer Randy Gilray and his team took apart the Heil family's 23-year-old diesel furnace Saturday, and replaced it with a brand new high efficiency gas one.

"I know last year they were spending $2,500 on fuel," Gilray said. "If it's something similar this year, they're probably going to be looking at a heating bill that will be more in the neighborhood of $1,000-2,000."

On top of that, Saturday's installation, won't cost the Heils a cent. "My company is donating the materials, the extra labor," Gilray said.

Lennox dealers, like Gilray, installed 76 furnaces over the weekend--one in almost every county around the state. It's party of the Heat U.P. Wisconsin campaign, a program that donates furnaces to people in need.

"I used to work, but I was in the military," Crystal Heil said. "But we've just always struggled with one paycheck." Heil's husband is in the National Guard. He's been deployed to Afghanistan in the past, and faces a possible second deployment by the end of the year--the location hasn't been determined yet. So as winter comes, heat bills isn't something the parents of three can afford to worry about.

"It's very stressful," Heil said.

That's where neighbor Laura Modrzejewski comes in. "I'm a big believer in karma. What goes around, comes around," she said.

Modrzejewski learned about the Heat U.P. Wis. campaign through coworkers this summer.

"When I thought of somebody, they were the first person that came to mind." Modrzejewski said. "I moved here two years ago and when I first moved here, I didn't know anybody in this neighborhood. [The Heils] came up to me and they brought us food. And we just clicked right away. Our kids get along great. They have helped us so much. More than I can even say."

Modrzejewski nominated her friends to say thank you, and spread some warmth their way.

"I know there have been times when the kids have come over and say, it's nice and warm over here," Modrzejewski said. "And I say, well isn't it that warm in your house. And they say, no it's a little colder over there."

Heil says she's even been forced to turn off the furnace for days at a time during the coldest months to save money.

"I love my neighbors. I am so thankful," Heil said as she began to cry. "It's going to help. And I guess without having people like Gilray and Randy, everybody's been so wonderful, it's nice to know that there are people out there helping other people."

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