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Two local families each awarded free furnace in annual giveaway program

Number of nominations doubles in second year

Mike Easterling
Farmington Daily Times
Michelle Robbins
  • Farmington's Robbins Heating & Air Conditioning Inc. has conducted the giveaway for the last two years.
  • More than 80 nominations or applications were submitted this year.
  • Owner Michelle Robbins says she hopes to continue the program every year.

FARMINGTON — When business owner Michelle Robbins decided in October to give away and install a free furnace to a needy family for the second year in a row she hoped to see more people submit nominations or applications than the 40 or so who signed up last year. 

Robbins said she was hoping to find at least 60 nominations submitted through Robbins Heating & Air Conditioning Inc.'s website after she announced the program's return. That would have been a substantial increase over the first year and a real sign that awareness of the program had grown.

She needn't have worried.

More than 80 nominations or applications had been received by her Farmington-based firm when the deadline came on Nov. 11. That figure that caught her by surprise.

"We kept getting email after email after email notifying us another application had come through," she said.

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That response was gratifying, but it also was concerning, as it demonstrated how many families in the community had a need for a new furnace, Robbins said.

"I think it does highlight that money might be a little more tight for some families with this COVID year," she said.

That situation made such an impression on Robbins and her partners in the project — Majestic Electric and M&R Plumbing — that they wound up selecting two winners this year, each of whom will receive a new furnace and have it installed in their home.

"It was a spur-of-the-moment decision," Robbins said, explaining that when Majestic and M&R approached her about taking part in the program, there had been no firm decisions made about what form their participation would take. There were discussions about the two other companies donating gift cards to some of the families that weren't chosen to receive a furnace.

But in the end, Robbins said, everyone agreed to simply underwrite the cost of a second furnace, and now two local families will enjoy having a reliable heating source this winter.

The method used to choose the winners was designed to be as fair as possible. Robbins entered the names of all the applicants or nominees into a computerized random name-picking program, and three finalists were chosen. Home evaluations were carried out to make sure the finalists met the qualifications for the program, namely that they owned their own home.

In the end, two of the finalists met all the qualifications, and that point, Robbins and her partners decided to award each of them a furnace. The winners were announced Nov. 18 on the Robbins Heating & Air Conditioning Inc. Facebook page.

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"Both winners were such nice people," Robbins said, explaining that one of the recipients is a family with kids in college and a furnace that recently went out. The parents couldn't afford to buy a new furnace and keep their kids in school, but the program will allow them to pay their children's tuition and keep their home warm this season.

The other family was just as needy, she said, explaining that there are 11 children in the home, and the husband — the primary breadwinner — has been laid off from his oilfield job.

"They're struggling to make ends meet," Robbins said.

Robbins said she has received a great deal of positive feedback about the program, even from people who didn't apply for it or submit a nomination, and she already has said she intends to continue doing it every year.

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"I am so grateful to be involved in something like this," she said. "It's so touching and so gratifying."

Mike Easterling can be reached at 505-564-4610 or measterling@daily-times.com. Support local journalism with a digital subscription.