Five families in the Tri-Cities area are thankful, come the chilly days of autumn, for Batavia businessman Tom Wangler.
A sixth will be too, once his annual "Home Heating Makeover" contest winner is announced in December.
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Wangler, who owns Confident Aire Inc., will install a new, energy-efficient furnace at no cost for a needy recipient. Over the past five years, he estimates he and his workers have contributed about $40,000 in labor and materials. The furnace is donated by Trane and Munch Supply. The quality of the air in the home is analyzed, ducts are cleaned and sealed, and an air filtration system is installed.
The recipients are nominated by churches, nonprofit groups and current clients.
Runners-up receive free safety checks. For last year's winner, that turned out to be important. While there to install the new furnace, workers also inspected the single mom's other appliances. They found a plugged dryer vent, with a large amount of lint built up in the wall where the dryer hose was broken.
"Why it never ignited is beyond me," Wangler said, in a prepared statement. "I guess she was just being watched after."
On 2008, a Batavia family with many medical problems won. In 2007, the prize was given to a Geneva family whose 14-year-old son had battled cancer on and off for 10 years.
Besides his business charity, Wangler has served as president of the Batavia Chamber of Commerce. And in 2007, he rescued two people when their canoe capsized on the Fox River in Batavia.