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Rochester area veterans receive a 'huge weight off our shoulders' with new furnaces

Superior Mechanical, Lennox and the Stewartville American Legion Post 164 came together to donate and install new furnaces in two veterans' homes.

Amanda Cole.jpg
Amanda Cole, left, received a new furnace on Oct. 11, 2022 through Superior Mechanical's Feel the Love program.
Contributed / Superior Mechanical
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STEWARTVILLE — Last winter, U.S. Marine Corps veteran Amanda Cole had to find workarounds to heat her Chatfield home after experiencing issues with her furnace.

"Last year, we were, from Christmas to the middle of February, with no heat and just ran off of (space) heaters, just to heat the house that way until we had to replace the new fan," she said.

But as of Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2022, Cole won't have to worry about keeping herself and her 2-year-old daughter warm this winter. Through the annual Feel the Love program, Rochester-based Superior Mechanical, Lennox and the Stewartville American Legion Post 164 donated and installed new furnaces in the homes of two area veterans in need.

"I'm very grateful that I don't have to worry about how to heat my house for my daughter," Cole said.

Feel the Love is a longstanding program for furnace manufacturer Lennox, but this year was Superior Mechanical's second time participating.

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"We were just kind of excited to get on board with them," Superior Mechanical office manager Amy Hoven said of Lennox. "They provide the heating equipment — or cooling equipment, depending on the customer's needs — we provide all of the labor, and together we are able to provide some much needed equipment for some families who deserve it."

Superior Mechanical service manager Shane Poncelet estimated that each donated furnace is worth between $5,000 to $6,000. As for the value of the donated labor, Hoven said they don't keep track of the hours.

"We're not even really keeping track of it; it's all donated time," Hoven said. "It's a good day. That's one of my favorite days of the year, just to go out and be part of that."

Stewartville Legion Post Commander Ron Moore said the legion's role in the program is to find veterans or other people in need of a new furnace.

"The program isn't just for veterans," Moore said. "It's for people that, you know, are in need. But, of course, our mission through the Legion is we try to do the veterans to help them out."

The legion received two nominations this year, and the organizations were able to fulfill both requests.

"It was a huge weight off of our shoulders," said Justin Kraling, the other furnace recipient. "It was just a huge relief to both my wife and I."

After Kraling transitioned from active service in the Marine Corps to the inactive ready reserves, his family moved into his parents' farmhouse outside of Spring Valley in 2021.

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"They moved into town, and we got the opportunity to buy that place," Kraling said. "Right after that, we started having issues with about every single piece of utility inside of there. We went through a water pressure tank, a water heater, and our furnace was giving us a hard time, so it was one thing after the next."

Justin and Tara Kraling.jpg
Justin Kraling (center) holds his two daughters after his family received a new furnance through the Feel the Love program on Oct. 11, 2022.
Contributed / Superior Mechanical

Kraling's uncle, Dean Ramaker, nominated him for the Feel the Love program, and after a home inspection in September, Kraling got his new furnace on Tuesday.

"We feel very lucky to even be nominated for something like this," Kraling said. "So we just want to thank every single one of those organizations for considering us for this."

For Cole, who served in the Marines for three years as a combat engineer, the significance of Oct. 11 went beyond the new furnace. She was nominated by Melissa and Jerry Halvorson, the parents of her friend Blaine Halvorson, who died in 2021.

"We've always said to look for the 21s," Cole said. "His name is 21 letters long, he was the one who got me to join the Marine Corps. All of the military relations of the number 21, with the 21 gun salute, 21 steps at the (Tomb of the Unknown Soldier), all of that stuff."

Cole's home inspection fell on Sept. 21, and when she heard that her new furnace would be installed on Oct. 11, she said it was a coincidence that stirred up a lot of emotions.

"You add 10 and 11 together and you get 21," she said. "So, not only was it his parents that nominated me, but he was also looking out, too."

Dené K. Dryden is the Post Bulletin's region reporter, covering the greater Rochester area. Before joining the Post Bulletin in 2022, she attended Kansas State University and served as an editor for the student newspaper, the Kansas State Collegian, and news director for Wildcat 91.9, K-State's student radio station. Readers can reach Dené at ddryden@postbulletin.com.
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