“In the winter, we’re the only agency that does heater repair in Philadelphia. You can imagine how many families look to us for help. If we went away, I don’t know what would happen.” Says Cynthia Olidge, Manager of ECA’s Heater Hotline program. “On February 1st, our phone log was at 3572 voicemails. We had to turn it off.” From Sept.1st to date, the Heater Hotline mechanics have serviced 1483 people, by either fixing or replacing their heaters to help them weather the cold winters in Philadelphia.
“Everyone who calls us thinks that they have an emergency, which they do, but they forget that they are not the only emergency. We only have 8 mechanics out in the field so we do the best we can with our employees. What is reassuring is we know that we do the most with what we have, helping as many people as humanly possible”.
Heater Hotline, and the Crisis programs are the two low-income heater replacement programs that ECA delivers to Philadelphia residents. Hotline services thousands of homeowners every winter, is about to celebrate their 20th anniversary. This program has gone strong for so long primarily because of the fierce dedication the employees have for the work they do. Even though Heater Hotline always runs out of money towards end of the season, the demand for heater assistance “never goes down”. To triage the massive need for heat in Philadelphia, focusing first on the sick, elderly and poorest, CRISIS staff staggers their work every day, to service as many people as possible. Some come in as early as 6 am and others bring work home with them, making phone calls as late as 6 pm each night.
“If you wanted to get an example of a man who’s dedicated, you don’t have to look much farther than Tony” says Cynthia. Tony Neri, the director of the heating subcontractors for Heater Hotline is a powerhouse. “Tony doesn’t have work hours. He works over time staying here as late as 6 o’clock and then will go out to do work for people’s homes after that. Tony works 7 days a week.”
This dedication definitely doesn’t go unnoticed. The homeowners who receive assistance through our programs know their Tony, Cynthia and the others by their first names and are incredibly appreciative of the work they do. They truly understand the severity of the issue of living in a freezing cold apartment without heat.
Matthew Wilk completed his studies at Marist College, majoring in Communications with a minor in Public Praxis. He has experience coordinating public service events, preparing interactive environmental educational activities and making documentaries. Matt will be the Communications and Development Member at the Energy Coordinating Agency. He will prepare proposals, deliver region-wide presentations and ensure the sustainability of ECA’s services in the community.