At a signing ceremony on July 30 in a room filled with veterans, military personnel and supporters in Richboro, Pennsylvania, Heating, Air-conditioning & Refrigeration Distributors International (HARDI) entered into an agreement, creating the association’s largest philanthropic partnership to date.
Signing on behalf of HARDI was CEO Talbot Gee and Homes For Our Troops (HFOT) president and CEO, retired Maj. Gen. Timothy P. McHale. Through this partnership, HARDI will become the single biggest contributor to HFOT, a Massachusetts-based organization providing specially adapted, mortgage-free homes to military veterans who have sustained life-altering injuries in combat.
“The feeling I have goes beyond excitement; it’s electric,” HARDI CEO Talbot Gee said after the signing ceremony. “This partnership opens the doors for our members to do so much good, and the pride we’ll collectively have is going to permeate throughout the association. It’s just a real badge of honor for us.”
“We are proud to announce this morning that we will be adding HARDI as our official supplier of HVAC for Homes for Our Troops,” McHale said. “Support from partners like HARDI is crucial in completing our mission of building homes and rebuilding lives.”
In the three-year agreement, HARDI will support HFOT with 100 builds. For each home, HARDI members will provide all heating and cooling equipment and supplies and coordinate the installation with their contractor partner at no charge for each home at an estimated value upwards of $1 million.
“As a veteran myself, I am particularly honored to be involved in this partnership. This is an extremely meaningful day for me,” said Mike Braun, vice chair of HARDI’s Impact Committee and director of marketing for Gustave A. Larson Co. “I can speak for those of us at Gustave A. Larson Co. when I say that it’s a privilege for us to make a tangible difference in the quality of life for these injured soldiers.”
“I got involved in HARDI’s Impact Committee because I wanted to help HARDI make a difference,” said Dave Chatmon, chair of HARDI’s Impact Committee and owner of The Lettering Machine. “With this partnership, we have a monumental opportunity to do just that. There’s a fastball coming right down the middle, and it’s up to us to hit it out of the park.”
Gee recalls hearing about HFOT during a U.S. Green Building Council show and was intrigued by one of HFOT’s representatives. “They were trying to learn about green building — and, more importantly, high-performance, high-efficiency building — and what role high-efficiency products would play in that,” Gee said. “That resonated immediately. They give the home to the veteran mortgage-free, but the recipient is responsible for all operating expenses thereafter, so their goal is to build the most efficient adapted homes possible. That’s something that our members try to sell every day. This [effort] was a great expression of that.”
According to Gee, the three-year commitment to HFOT is a demonstration of HARDI’s confidence in the program. In the past, HARDI has often conducted volunteer efforts on an ad-hoc basis. “This three-year campaign with Homes For Our Troops is unprecedented,” he said.
Gee stated that an unexpected but exciting aspect of the partnership is understanding “how important it was for our distributors to be able to partner with one of their strong contractor customers. One of the expectations or requirements of our distributors is to provide the installing contractor. That’s an important aspect [of the program].”
The signing event coincided with the announcement of a new home for Philadelphia native Cpl. Kevin McCloskey and wife Bridget.
McCloskey had both legs amputated after his truck rolled over an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan. He also suffered vision loss in his right eye, extensive burns on his body and a traumatic brain injury.
Various contributors, from a local builder to a paint company, offered their reasons for support, but the most powerful moments were from former soldiers who shared their war experiences. Army Sgt. Pisey Tan lost both legs and was the recipient of a home through HFOT in 2006. He explained how his brother had to carry him up and down the stairs until he could move into a house designed for his disability. While not the official start of HARDI’s three-year partnership with HFOT, HARDI was able to connect distributor member Riley Sales with McCloskey’s build to provide the air-conditioning system and a beta test of how to best execute distributor contributions to future builds.
HARDI and HFOT will announce the details of the first build later this year.