Friends Pitch in to Help Family Complete Home

September 14, 2001
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While cameraman Jacob Nagel films, Steve Ebels is interviewed by Robin Murdoch of "9&10 News," the TV station in Cadillac, MI.
FALMOUTH, MI - It is a warm, tranquil summer day in this small town of 300 residents. The serene setting almost begs passersby to slow down and enjoy the moment.

For Sandi Dieterman, however, there is not much serenity these days. Her late husband, Terry, only 32 years old, was killed in a farming accident in late April. The couple had three children and another on the way. They had just taken out a mortgage to remodel their home, to accommodate the expanding family. It was a big undertaking, but the Dietermans were confident they were making the right decision to expand.

Terry's death shattered the dream.

Fortunately, the Dietermans have many dear friends in the community, including fellow Prosper Church members. One of the people close to them is Steve Ebels.

Ebels met and became good friends with Terry while both attended the church, which is just a stone's throw from the Dieterman home. Realizing that Sandi and the children would need all of their financial resources for day-to-day living expenses, Ebels decided to help out by installing a new heating and hot water system for as little cost to the family as possible.

Ebels' company, Golden Rule Heating & Cooling in Falmouth, MI, is aptly named.

Ebels enlisted the help of his many cyber friends - those he has met through his talks on "The Wall," an Internet message board hosted by Dan Holohan via his website, www.heatinghelp.com. He told Terry's story to the many friends he has never met and instantly there were offers of cash donations, equipment donations, and manpower - all to help pay off the remodeling mortgage and help install a heating system in the home before the cold northern Michigan winter months set in. (Note: The News first covered the story of the Dieterman family in the May 28 issue, "Tragedy Brings Out the Best in Our Industry," page 35.)

The work crew on this day consisted of (from left) Andrew Ebels, Mark Jenema, Steve Ebels, and Dave Mason.

TV NEWS GETS INVOLVED

The local CBS affiliate in nearby Cadillac, the "9 and 10 News," did an original story after Terry's death, highlighting the Prosper Church auction that raised almost $70,000 and asking the public for more donations. When The News contacted the same TV station a few months later to cover the work being done by Ebels, they were more than happy to revisit the Dieterman home and do a story on Ebel's charitable donation.

On this day in mid-August, Ebels was joined by his son, Andrew, friend Mark Jenema, and hvacr contractor Dave Mason, owner of Climatech LLC in Marlette, MI. Mason, who lives two-and-a-half hours away by car, took time off his busy schedule to spend a day helping Ebels.

The crew was installing equipment donated by Buderus: a boiler, hot water heater, operating control, and power vent assembly. Other equipment was sold at greatly reduced costs by Buderus, Kitec Refrigeration Supply of nearby Traverse City, MI, and R.L. Deppman of Grand Rapids, MI.

Ebels donated his own labor and many of the parts needed to hook up the system.

Part of the job included cleaning up the basement to prepare it for the new components. The cleanup included waterproofing an outdoor wall that faced the South; it was damaged by moisture from basement flooding. It wasn't uncommon to see a wet floor and walls during heavy rains. Ebels arranged to mount the boiler and tank on blocks off the floor, just in case the sump pump failed.

The home was a buzz of activity, despite being vacant. Sandi and her children had not moved back into the home since the remodeling started.

The TV news crew showed up just in time to interrupt Ebels from his busy routine. He was somewhat surprised that he was going to be the subject of the taping, but, being a good sport, he agreed to the interview. The rest of the crew ducked out to lunch, leaving Ebels to handle the media coverage. 9&10's Robin Murdoch and cameraman Jacob Nagel set up shop in the basement and Murdoch conducted her interview. At various intervals, Ebels struggled to maintain his composure, especially while reminiscing about his friend Terry.

The final feature was aired by 9&10 News twice that same night. The goal of the feature was to raise awareness of the continuing need for donations to help the family. It also served to reveal the kindness and generosity of hvacr contractors.

If you would like to donate to the Dieterman family, please send a tax-deductible check to: Prosper Church, 1975 East Prosper Road, Falmouth, MI 49632. Please note that the check is for the Terry Dieterman family.

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