By MARY ANN O'TOOLE HOLLEY
With furnace filters, parts and roadmaps loaded into their trucks, about 300 volunteers from Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 562 swept the streets of metro St. Louis Oct. 21, reaching out to help others keep warm this winter.
The annual “Heat’s On” blitz, a perennial event for 31 years, is a collaboration between Local 562 and the Mechanical Contractors Association.
The annual event helps needy families, the elderly and Local 562 retirees screened by the United Way, making sure they’re safe and ready for cold winter months. Since its beginning, more than 11,000 homes have been serviced, free of charge.
Local 562 volunteers conduct a 34-point inspection at each home, covering the furnace, flue and chimney. The service techs repair anything they can at the time of the visit.
‘A GREAT PROGRAM’
Black Jack homeowner Eric Abernathy, a Local 562 retiree, said he worked as a member of the union for many years, and even volunteered for his own share of “Heat’s On” events. This year, he was the one getting the help.
“I’m just glad the program is still going strong. It’s a great program,” said Abernathy, who retired in 2012. “I worked on the opposite side building during my time, but when it comes to the mechanical parts, I leave it to the brains.”
‘IT MAKES YOU FEEL GOOD’
Barclay Schindler, a 29-year journeyman and his first-year apprentice Kevin Henderson, tackled the job, took care of business and were out of Abernathy’s way as swift and professionally as though they were on the clock.
“It makes you feel good, knowing you are helping someone, especially if you find a safety issue,” Schindler said.
‘UNION NEIGHBORS HELPING THE COMMUNITY’
John O’Mara, business manager of Local 562, thanked George Corey, president of the Mechanical Contractors Association, and business partner suppliers who donated to the day’s event.
“This is the thing that makes it simple to vote against so-called “right-to-work” in Missouri,” O’Mara said. “It’s all about union neighbors helping the community.”
Since the Heat’s On program began, Local 562 and the MCA contributions have provided more than 7,500 volunteers and more than $6 million in labor and materials.
Volunteers started the day at the Local 562 Union Hall at 12385 Larimore Rd., where they heard from O’Mara: Patrick Kellett, general secretary-treasurer of the United Association of Plumbers, Fitters, Welders and Service Techs.; St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger and St. Peters Mayor Len Pagano.