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Team work gets the heat back on for McCleary Manor residents

By the end of the two-week ordeal—no heat inside and frigid, below zero degrees temperatures outside and a snowstorm—there was a whole list of folks Shannon Rudder needed to thank.


 

new furnace

It was early on Saturday morning, December 29, that Rudder (above), executive director of Providence Ministries for the Needy (PMN), learned from resident advocate Michael Clark that McCleary Manor, home to 20 men living in sobriety and the location of PMN’s main offices, was without heat and had a basement full of water.

Rudder and her husband David arrived on the scene a short time later, PMN’s heating vendor a short time after that. A pipe was leaking and the boiler’s heat exchanger had malfunctioned. The first hours of attempting to correct the problem failed. (Later they would learn a new boiler was needed.)

Rudder and Michael Lewis, PMN’s director of housing, quickly determined they had more than one dilemma on their hands. Besides needing a new boiler, Rudder said, “We needed a warm, safe and appropriate place for our residents to stay.”

By nine o’clock that evening, three were staying with family and six rooms were available at two other PMN locations. And, Clark arranged for those not yet settled—two in motorized chairs—to be at a local hotel, and transported them there.

Record low temperatures and the minus zero wind chill led to another concern—how to best protect the building from bursting pipes.

When contacted, Roger Korell, director of facilities operations at nearby Providence Place, assessed the situation and advised accordingly. On New Year’s Eve, he and Mary Jane Dupont, PMN’s administrative coordinator, spent nearly six hours on preventative measures and on damage control.

Korell drained the water from the building and advised shutting off the building’s water supply and ceiling sprinkler system. Clark and John Wesolowski, Director of Operations for the Sisters of Providence Ministry Corporation, placed oil based electric heaters throughout the building to prevent pipes from freezing, and Lewis and David Rudder put RV antifreeze in the toilets. And extra security for the now vacated building was requested. In short, everything that could be done was done.

“Given it was the long holiday weekend there wasn’t much else we could do besides keep checking the building and praying. So many of us did just that,” recalled Rudder.

Then, disappointment followed the initial elation after the new boiler’s arrival. The replacement boiler was six inches larger than the former one. That resulted in a delay until the required new copper piping was put in place.

Finally, the boiler was fired up and, after two days of getting the building’s temperature back to normal, its residents could safely return.

Now weeks later, Rudder still marvels over the teamwork that circumvented an ordeal from turning into a crisis. In addition to those mentioned earlier, the PMN Board was at the ready throughout with Board chair Jean Zaleski checking on staff and networking with a local heating and plumbing company. Board vice chair Jim Wall, chair of PMN’s facilities operations committee, kept abreast of developments and offered consult and support when needed, dropping off handwarmers to staff still working in the frigid building and ensuring the building was warm enough to welcome the residents home. Staffer Claudia Pazmany, PMN’s director of development and marketing, researched sources of emergency funding and secured $5,000 from the Beveridge Foundation to help defray costs including the support of McCleary Manor’s displaced residents.

Rudder said, she “learned much about boilers, engineering, winterizing and project management in a crisis,” lessons sure to serve her well in the future.

 

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