It was one of those autumn days when you start to feel the chill set in. A fine rain kept reminding all how easily those drops could turn to frozen flakes leading to the long winter ahead.
Inside Marie Swindells’ Lacombe Park house, however, a small crowd had gathered around the hearth on the main floor in warm celebration of young Zadie’s sixth birthday. Of course, there was cake for the girl, Marie’s granddaughter, but the biggest gift was being installed in the basement. A team of people from True North Heating and Cooling were offering an early Thanksgiving present in the form of a new high efficiency Lennox furnace to help keep that warm celebration going all winter long, no matter how cold it became.
The free furnace was the grand prize for an annual community-based contest called Feel the Love. Every year, local Lennox affiliate True North receives nominations for people who are in need or deserve a big thank-you, or both in many cases. Swindells was nominated because she is caring for her granddaughter after her own daughter died earlier this year.
“Marie’s home is important to her but she doesn't have as much time because of Zadie and the things that she enjoys to do, like helping other people,” explained Carmal Huppie, True North’s co-owner along with her husband Cory who works on the installation crew.
The company replaced the home’s original 1974 furnace, a unit that worked by loudly kicking into action in a way that sent dust dramatically billowing through the air from the vents. True North offered other improvements to make the house as maximally heat efficient as possible as well.
While that installation work was continuing, the assembled guests upstairs approached Swindells with their own gifts. Some of those people were personal acquaintances, while others offered icing on the cake from other companies including Dance Co, Off the Hook Salon and Spa, IG Wealth Management, Lathered, Central Social Hall, Sargent Shine, Mainline Furnace Cleaning, Nicole Danielle Photography, Sarasota Realty, HML And GCS Construction
“In this industry, you have to wait for somebody to have a problem and then you go. You never know who you're going to deal with or how they're going to feel about what you are having to do for them. It's a hard job. This side of it is one of the reasons why we push through. One of the reasons is the gift of heat; the ability to do this for somebody is very rewarding. There's really no better feeling,” Huppie said, adding how amazing it is to bring a community of people together to make somebody like Swindells feel so special and help her on her journey.
As far as Swindells was concerned, the outpouring of love and support was just as great a gift as the furnace and all of the other surprises.
“I wasn’t expecting it. I was nominated by people who have seen me in the last 20 years because I work with special needs kids and I worked with elderly. It's kind of tough living in St. Albert when you’ve only got one income, so I always had two jobs,” she began, noting she had to quit one job recently in order to care for her granddaughter.
The mixed emotions of the day clearly had her feeling overwhelmed at one point. She doesn’t ask for help, she said, though struggling to keep her privacy and to keep an older house in shape to raise a young girl often gets the better of her.
“Every year you're thinking, ‘Okay, what's going to break now?’ Every year is something with an older home. For someone to say, ‘We noticed that you're a giver and we want to give back’ is just ... I wasn't expecting everything else but a furnace is just a relief for me. Most days, we celebrate. This is a very happy, loving home. I'm emotional today but it is and I'm just grateful. I'm grateful for everyone.”