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Volunteers help deliver TLC to Prince George’s homes


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Photo courtesy of Jermoni Dowd. Prince George's County firefighters and Department of Family Services workers pose with Jacqueline Campbell outside her Temple Hills home during the annual "Heats On - Waters Off" event Saturday.

Photo courtesy of Jermoni Dowd. Prince George's County firefighters and Department of Family Services workers pose with Jacqueline Campbell outside her Temple Hills home during the annual "Heats On - Waters Off" event Saturday.

Published on: Thursday, October 03, 2013

By Joshua Garner

Winters have been particularly cold for Jacqueline Campbell inside her Temple Hills home the last two years.

That was around the time that the furnace broke in Campbell’s 40-year-old home. But without the thousands of dollars needed for the repairs, Campbell, 69, spent winters huddled by portable heaters with her two daughters. They would layer on extra clothing during the winter months and limit their time in parts of the house that did not have heaters.

But now Campbell is hoping to have a warmer winter this year after a team of volunteers spent Saturday replacing her furnace and installing a new heating system in her home as part of the annual “Heats On – Waters Off” event sponsored by the Prince George’s County Department of Family Services. The event provides preventive maintenance for heating and plumbing equipment to senior citizens and persons with disabilities.

“Everything has been fantastic,” said Campbell, who has been diagnosed with breast cancer and multiple sclerosis. “Financially, I couldn’t do it by myself.”

The event has been a partnership with the county’s Department of Family Services, Prince George’s County Fire/EMS Department and the Mechanical Contractors Association of Metropolitan Washington, among other contracting unions for 12 years. Residents are solicited through a county database and through advertisement at local community centers and libraries. Since the program’s inception, the need for repairs at residents’ homes has increased, county representatives said.

“You have a lot of homes that are not up to code that need TLC,” said Jermoni Dowd, a spokesman with Prince George’s County Department of Family Services.

Repairs include replacing heating furnaces, plumbing repairs and cleaning ventilation systems. In all, about 60 volunteers were dispersed through the county to service 26 homes in one day, according to Steve Mack, chairman of mechanical services at EMCOR Services Combusioneer, which oversees the contractors for the event.

The services don’t come cheap, Mack said. A replacement furnace, including labor, can run as high as $8,000, he said. In total, $100,000 is donated between parts and labor throughout the day.

Still, volunteers said the services are sorely needed in the county, particularly in older homes. Mack said that last year volunteers cleaned the ventilation system in a home in Capitol Heights that was filled with soot. He said cleaning out the system likely prevented carbon monoxide from seeping into the home, which could have resulted in deaths.

“This isn’t about feeling good, it’s about saving lives,” he said.

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