The Sept. 21, 2001 issue of The News contained an article I wrote in the days following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Titled “Coping With Tragedy’s Aftermath,” the article included the story of BP Air Conditioning Corp., a NYC mechanical service contractor that lost two technicians who were working in Tower 1 of the World Trade Center. The company has set up separate trust funds for the families of the two men, Felix (Bobby) Calixte and Arturo (Angelo) Sereno.

BP vice president of service Jack Fanneron said the funds were set up after customers, vendors, and employees asked what they could do beyond the contributions they had made to the WTC Fund. The answer — help set up the trust funds.

A reader in Reno, NV, read the article and felt an immediate pull at her heartstrings. Anna Weakland, co-owner with her husband of Weakland’s Heating and Air Conditioning, made it her goal to raise money for the families — despite the distance and the cost that such an undertaking would involve.

“When I first read the story, I wanted to pack up my car and head to New York City,” she said. “I felt so handicapped, knowing I was so far away from people who needed help.”

Weakland supported the work of the Red Cross in raising donations, but she wanted to be sure she knew exactly where her money was going. Finding a worthy cause within her own industry was exactly what she was looking for. So she put her plan into action.

Last Nov. 10, she arranged to have a car wash to raise money. Her company bought 5,000 U.S. flag antenna toppers. The toppers were given to all who had their cars washed. If someone wanted to buy a topper, they were available for $2, and the proceeds went to the trust funds.


Weakland advertised the car wash in the local newspaper, The Reno Gazette-Journal, which gave her a special rate for advertising a charitable event. One of her employees went to the websites of local TV and radio stations to inform them of the upcoming car wash. Weakland also got contributions from local vendor Western Nevada Supply, and some private individuals, too.

Her 16 employees helped out the day of the car wash, offering extra services like a car wax, interior vaccuming, etc. Weakland challenged other local heating and cooling contractors to show up and get their trucks washed. Two of her competitors sent over people and donated to the event. She provided coffee and donuts in the morning for the volunteers and her father cooked up hot dogs for lunch. The local media showed up in full force.

“The response from the public was tremendous,” she said. “We washed 150 cars that day. And everyone who had their car wash got their names listed in an ad for the local newspaper.”

Not only that, Weakland made sure everyone knew the beneficiary of the fundraiser. She set out copies of The News’ article so that people could read about BP and understand that the money was being donated to the trust funds. “All of the people here were very happy to know where the money was going to,” Weakland said.

Weakland reminisced about a time when she had needed a helping hand and her community had responded. Back in 1997, Reno was hit by a devastating flood that wiped out her one-year-old business. “So many people were there to help me, and that is why I wish I were closer to New York City now,” she said.

Weakland is still collecting money through the sale of the antenna toppers. But the one-day car wash and related donations raised $5,660, and the sum will continue to grow.

“What she has done is amazing, unbelievable,” said Fanneron. “She has gone to a great deal of expense to help out.”

Amazing and unbelievable? Sure. But not atypical of our contractors. You probably won’t see this story on “Dateline.” But that’s OK. The families of Bobby and Angelo know, even if they are 2,500 miles away.

Thanks Anna.

If you want to buy an antenna topper or make a donation to the trust funds through Anna Weakland, please contact her at the address below:

Weakland’s Heating & Air Conditioning
890 East Patriot Blvd.
Suite B
Reno, NV 89511

Hall is business management editor. He can be reached at 734-542-6214; 734-542-6215 (fax); (e-mail).

Publication date: 02/11/2002