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Evergreen Youth & Family Services: Youth emergency shelter wins free furnace

Dave Brinkman, left, and Kyle Norden, both employees with Higgins Heating in Bemidji, move a new furnace into Evergreen House’s youth emergency shelter Saturday morning. Evergreen House received the free furnace through Lennox’s Heat UP Minnesota program. Bethany Wesley | Bemidji Pioneer

BEMIDJI – Evergreen Youth & Family Services has received one of 50 new furnaces donated to those in need.

Evergreen’s youth emergency shelter, which provides housing to homeless children in crisis situations, was chosen to receive a brand-new, high-efficiency furnace courtesy of Lennox, a furnace manufacturer, through its statewide Heat Up Minnesota program.

The furnace itself, valued at about $1,500, was donated by Lennox. Higgins Heating, Air Conditioning and Refrigeration donated the labor and materials, which included new ductwork, venting and programmable thermostat. The total value was estimated at about $3,500.

“It’s awesome,” said Becky Schueller, executive director of Evergreen Youth & Family Services. “It’s a huge, huge help this year.”

Lennox donated 50 furnaces statewide through the first year of its Heat Up Minnesota program. Furnaces were donated to people and nonprofits throughout Minnesota that are going through difficult financial times. A similar program is in its second year in Wisconsin.

Last year was a difficult year for Evergreen Youth & Family Services. In October 2011, it learned that it would not receive its federal grant for runaway and homeless youth. The Bemidji nonprofit lost $100,000 from its budget as all of the funding for homeless youth was funneled into metropolitan areas.

Compounding that bad news was that the furnaces used to heat the youth emergency shelter were dying. Charlie Ward, owner of Higgins Heating since 2006, examined the existing furnaces earlier this month, finding that one was shot, its blower motor on its way out.

Ward said he was happy to provide the Evergreen shelter with a new furnace.

“These guys really needed it,” he said.

All of the Lennox furnaces were installed Saturday throughout Minnesota. Though the Bemidji region had the most applications for the program with 27, Ward, who also serves on Lennox’ advisory board, said Evergreen was the only local recipient as it takes a day’s worth of work to install a furnace.

The new furnace is much more efficient than the old one, which, when new, ran at about 80 percent efficiency; the new one is 93 percent efficient.

It was Bill Maddox, a senior counselor with Evergreen, who initially heard about the Heat Up Minnesota program. He and a coworker, Jeanne Strate, worked to apply for the program.

The new furnace eases the pressure on the mechanical needs facing the shelter. But, Schueller said, the shelter will still have the replace the other furnace and also is in need of a new hot-water heater.