A local air conditioning company’s idea of giving a free air conditioning system to a deserving family resulted in a group of five local businesses coming together to make a huge difference in one family’s life.
It began last December when IERNA’s Heating, Cooling & Plumbing launched its newest charity, Neighbor In Need Give-Away, and asked local residents to nominate a person or family who selflessly helped others, while in need of help themselves.
Owner Charlene Ierna committed to removing the winner’s old equipment, installing the new A/C unit and taking care of any permitting fees. And, Jeff Hoffman of Florida Carrier Enterprises agreed to help by donating a Bryant Coastal Air Conditioner.
This generous partnership allowed IERNA’S to kick off its Neighbor In Need Give-Away. Nearly 50 nominations were submitted, all with a written summary on why their nominee deserved the free A/C system.
To select the winner, Charlene assembled a panel of six judges to review the entries.
“It was a very difficult decision for our judges,” said Rob Kress, IERNA’S director of marketing and public relations. “Many of the stories of these selfless people moved our judges to tears. We truly wish we could have given every nominee a new A/C system.”
The Winning Family
Judges selected Jason and Cristine Rhodes of Spring Hill as the first winner of the Neighbor In Need contest.
“Jason was overwhelmed and nearly in tears when I called him with the news,” said Kress. “Their central heating and cooling system had stopped working three years ago, and this family of five had endured extreme summer temperatures and sometimes-frigid winter temperatures.”
The Rhodes are known in central Pasco for their work with The Inspire Foundation, a nonprofit music and arts program that uses the arts to help children with autism and other disabilities. Much of the work done by The Inspire Foundation is at no cost.
The Rhodes established their foundation after helping their autistic son become verbal by using music to connect and communicate with him. As professional music instructors, the couple wanted to share what they learned by helping their son with other families.
“The Rhodes family is constantly raising funds to keep their program going, and have forgone their own personal needs to help others,” said Kress.
The Prize Grows
IERNA’s sent its service manager, Rich Register, to the Rhodes home to evaluate its existing air conditioning system and to properly size their new equipment.
During the inspection, Register noted severe damage to the home’s existing ductwork, and saw that animals had gotten into the attic through holes in the roof.
Because of the poor condition of existing ductwork, IERNA’S decided to also donate all materials and installation for a complete new duct system.
But, first the raccoons living in the attic had to be removed. Kress reached out to Chris Wirt, an animal removal expert and owner of A-All Animal Control of Tampa Bay, who agreed to help.
At the Rhodes’ home, Wirt found that critters had entered through a severely damaged roof and soffits. The problem was so severe that it had to be resolved before the new air conditioning system could be installed.
So Kress contacted Matt Housh, owner of Arry’s Roofing Service of Tarpon Springs, who also agreed to help and, upon inspection, found the roof not reparable.
“Arry’s Roofing really stepped up,” said Kress. “A full roof replacement was the only option, and was a huge task. Arry’s team worked for three days at cost for materials only.”
With a new roof in place, Wirt returned to remove critters living in the attic and found that the attic insulation was saturated with animal urine and feces, and needed to be replaced.
So Wirt reached out to Mario Maffeo, owner of Gulfside Insulation, who agreed to donate his services and materials to safely extract and dispose of the contaminated insulation. Once extraction was complete, Wirt sanitized and disinfected the attic space, making it safe for HVAC technicians to do their work.
It took a lot longer than expected, but today the Rhodes family is enjoying the comfort of their new Bryant® Heating & Cooling system in a dry, critter free home, just in time for another sweltering Florida summer.
“We are proud to be a part of such an amazing community of people and local businesses,” said Charlene Ierna. “We’re grateful to Florida Carrier Enterprises, A-Animal Control, Arry’s Roofing Services and Gulfside Insulation for their kindness, generosity and willingness to be part of something that means so much to a family who lives to help others.”
And, most thankful of all is the Rhodes family.
“We are so honored and blessed to have been chosen by Charlene, Rob and the rest of IERNA’S team to receive a new air conditioner,” said Jason Rhodes. “This is a huge relief for us, and we plan on paying this kind deed forward in many ways. Thank you so much.”
“They work to help children in their community, raise money to buy instruments, provide free in-home music instruction for children with disabilities, and do all of this selflessly. Through hardships that were unavoidable, they have been unable to afford a replacement A/C unit for the past two years. They are proud people and don’t ask anyone for financial help.”
“This family (kids included) works very hard running their nonprofit organizations, The Inspire Foundation and Inspire Studios. Many kids and people on the autism spectrum need art, theater and music to express their emotions. This family is a blessing! Always giving their time and effort to others, never asking for a thing themselves in their personal lives.”
Published July 18, 2018