Union pipefitters make furnace repairs for homeowners in need

Mel MacFarlane (L), a journey-level pipefitter with Local 455, and third-year apprentice Ben Woodis ran a service heck for St. Paul resident Mary Kujawa during the Heat’s On service day Sept. 29.

Some 200 union tradespeople spent their day off Saturday inspecting and repairing furnaces at no cost to senior, low-income and disabled homeowners across Minnesota.

Volunteers with Project Heat’s On, the service day launched in 1986 by unions and their signatory contractors, came from three Pipefitters locals: St. Paul- and Mankato-based Local 455, Rochester-based Local 6 and Minneapolis- and St. Cloud-based Local 539.

Together, union members prepared 140 home furnaces for winter, making repairs that will reduce energy costs and prevent heating failures.

“St. Paul Steamfitters/Pipefitters Local 455 started Heat’s On in 1986, and it has been an overwhelming success,” Local 455 Assistant Business Manager Tony Poole said. “The following year, Local 539 made it a joint effort.

“Since then our members have donated thousands of man-hours helping low-income residents in the metro area by inspecting and making repairs to their home heating systems. It has been great to give back to the community.”

Since the project’s inception, volunteers have donated more than 35,000 hours of labor – at a value of $3,841,975 – to 8,144 households through the Heat’s On program.

Mel MacFarlane, a journey-level pipefitter with Local 455, and third-year apprentice Ben Woodis ran a basic service and operations check for Mary Kujawa, who lives in St. Paul’s North End neighborhood.

Kujawa said she wanted to be sure her furnace would make it to the holidays, when she plans on hosting her children and more than 40 grandchildren. MacFarlane, in his fourth year as a Heat’s On volunteer, saw no red flags during his inspection.

“She’s going to be set for the heating season,” MacFarlane said. “If nothing else, we delivered some piece of mind here today – and a few moments of companionship.”

Heat’s On is a combined effort of Pipefitters unions and the Minnesota Mechanical Contractors Association, which provides materials and parts for repairs, as well as four Community Action Partnership agencies (Hennepin County, Ramsey and Washington Counties, Three Rivers, and Tri-County), which identify homeowners in need.

Learn more about Project Heat’s On at www.mnpipetrades.com/heatson.php.

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