Matt Shelley (left) and Chris Koitek of A-Z Total Heating & Cooling open boxes in preparation for the installation. Owner Gary Shelley (background) unloads supplies.
DETROIT - The Habitat for Humanity "Blitz Build" stormed into Detroit in late June, fresh off a successful stop on the other side of the state in Benton Harbor. Thirty Detroit homes were built in a week during the project, raising the hopes of new homeowners and adding an air of revitalization to a depressed neighborhood.

Right in the middle of the project was a group of HVACR contractors, members of the Southeast Michigan Chapter of the Air Conditioning Contractors of America (SEMIACCA). Several contractors and their employees donated time to install air handlers and ductwork in six of the three- and four-bedroom ranch homes. What also made the event special was the fact many of the workers took time out on Father's Day to complete their tasks - beginning work just past dawn and completing (or almost completing) their work just before sunset.

The work had to be completed in a small window of time since the homes were scheduled for completion in one week. Father's Day was set aside for members of various construction trades, i.e., HVAC, plumbing, electrical, and roofing. The next day, work continued with hundreds of volunteers performing work such as installing shingles, siding, doors, windows, and landscaping. As the week went on, interior tasks such as drywalling, painting, and installing appliances continued.

New homeowners of the Habitat Homes worked side by side with volunteers, building up "sweat equity" and reducing the cost of the home mortgage.

Four SEMIACCA contractors and their crews performed the work in six different homes. Prior to their arrival, furnaces donated by Detroit-area distributor National Heating & Cooling were set in place in each of the home's basements. Workers hung pre-cut ductwork donated by Southwork (Indianapolis) and hooked on the furnaces throughout the day. Other materials were provided for reduced prices by Detroit-area distributors Foster Kilby Supply Co. and the Behler-Young Co.

James Hamrick of Liberty Total Comfort stands outside the basement of a Habitat for Humanity home, helping workers inside as they prepare to install the ductwork.

The List Of Volunteers

Fortunately, the skilled contractor day was scheduled for a Sunday, when most techs and installers were not scheduled to work. Unfortunately, it was Father's Day and, for some, work lasted a full 12 hours.

The work crews assembled at A-Z Total Heating & Cooling, Dearborn Heights. Owner Gary Shelley hosted the informal gathering and provided coffee and bagels for the workers. SEMIACCA President Craig Jones, co-owner of Slasor Heating & Cooling of Livonia, gave last minute instructions to the group.

Crew members Scott Bartram (left) and Mark Bartram from Diversified Heating & Cooling help position and install ductwork in the basement of one home.
The other SEMIACCA members who volunteered to work included Liberty Total Comfort of Redford, Day & Night Heating of Novi, and Diversified Heating & Cooling of Farmington Hills. Each owner talked about his motivation for working on the project.

McCourt met some Habitat homeowners at a dedication ceremony prior to his involvement in the Blitz Build. He came away very impressed. "People [homeowners] were crying - they were so happy," he said. "It was very eye-opening to me and changed my perspective on the whole thing."

Jones, who along with Slasor co-owner Jim Powell worked to set up the project, added, "I've always wanted to be a part of one of these projects. It is nice to be part of something this big. And I get a lot of satisfaction out of volunteering."

Judy Jones registers crew members, including Cliff McCourt (right), owner of Day & Night Heating & Cooling.
Shelly said he appreciated the hard work that each of the homeowners put into the project.

"I like the project because owners are involved," he said. "They don't get a handout. Habitat for Humanity finds the right people for these houses."

Bertram added that giving back is an important role for any businessperson. "We always try to give something back, like this and another project called ‘Project Heat' for seniors," he said. "This is an opportunity to do just that. And it has become a family effort - my son is working with me on this."

Liberty's McEvoy summed up his motivation for participating in a few simple words. "I like to help out," he noted. "I enjoy donating my time to a good cause."

Publication date: 07/11/2005