CHICAGO - The Mechanical Contractors of America’s (MCA’s) Chicago chapter recently initiated a “Heat for Heroes” program aimed at helping Chicago families of active-duty troops stay warm. The program was developed by the MCA of Chicago and Pipefitters Local Union 597, and it operates in conjunction with Operation Homefront, a nonprofit organization that supports the families of deployed service members.

“We realized this was probably the perfect opportunity to us, and a way for us to apply our expertise,” said executive VP and CEO Steve Lamb.

The contractor members of MCA and their service technicians from LU 597 are providing free inspection and repair of heating systems for any military family in need who has an active duty family member.

“We have 19 service contractors who have already volunteered to participate, and any number of service fitters who work for them,” Lamb said. The first repair was made by an employee of Southwest Town Mechanical, Chicago, owned by Jerry Grilec. “His guy spent five hours there. The wiring was all old and chewed up; there was no thermostat.” The residents consisted of five kids and their mom and dad; the husband had just gotten back from Iraq and is now scheduled to go to Afghanistan.

Operation Homefront needs many things, Lamb added. “They need storage desperately. People donate furniture or diapers that need to be stored - there’s another area we could help them with.

“There’s a lot of different things we can do for these folks. If they don’t deserve it, who does?”

Families of active-duty military can contact Operation Homefront through its website,, and download the application for assistance.

Publication date:06/28/2010