Community donations, good will help warm Somers man’s home

By Tom Phelan - Staff Writer
Somers - posted Fri., Jan. 28, 2011
Brett Shaw, of Suffield, connects the oil fill pipe on Leonard Dion’s new tank in Somers, with Tim MacNeeley as his assistant. Courtesy photo, submitted by Jenifer Charette. - Contributed Photo

SOMERS - Winter was promising to be long, cold and literally unbearable for Leonard Dion of Somers, until a tsunami of community support turned everything around.
Dion’s situation came to the attention of Somers Social Services Director Jenifer Charette in early November. The oil tank that fed the furnace in Dion’s home had developed a leak, and the tank had to be replaced. Charette was looking to the community to make contributions to the Social Services Emergency Fuel Fund. Dion’s oil supplier would not deliver any oil, because of the state of the tank. Furthermore, Dion did not qualify for state aid. “The town could not pay to help him out of our emergency fund,” said Charette.
Charette used a media connection to make the story public in early December. “By the next week, we were receiving donations every day,” Charette said. “We also had calls from people who offered their used tanks.” The pace of the donations began to grow. In a period of just about one month, a total of 43 separate donations totaling $2,930 had been accumulated to help with Dion’s heating situation. In fact, more money was donated than was needed.
One of those who read about Leonard Dion’s need was Tim MacNeely, who lives two towns away, across the Connecticut River in Suffield. MacNeely opted to change his family’s Christmas giving plans, and donate what they could to the rescue fund. He also convinced another Suffield resident, Brett Shaw, to help with the project. Shaw operates his own company, Shaw Mechanical Services, a heating, ventilating and cooling business. It was he who sized up the project and acquired the replacement tank for Dion’s home, as well as the pipes and fittings necessary to replace it.
“Tim [MacNeely] is a great guy for donating his time and money,” said Shaw of the man had brought him to the oil tank replacement cause.
In five hours on Jan. 8, Shaw and MacNeely, along with Charette, her husband and 19-year-old son, removed of the old oil tank and replaced it with a brand new one.
“It was a very good experience,” said Shaw. “I’m glad I did it.” He added that, although  he had donated money for a cause in the past, he had never done anything quite like this. It was in bad shape. “It definitely needed replacement,” Shaw said of Dion’s oil tank.
Shaw and his crew transferred the oil from the old tank – which was about one quarter-full – into the new tank. Then he arranged for another company to come fill the tank up to the top. He returned a few days after the tank installation to replace Dion’s hot water storage tank, which had developed its own problems.
Some of the extra money donated by the community’s caring response was applied to the purchase and installation of the new water heater. Another $600 of the money donated was used to fill the new tank with oil to keep Dion’s house warm.
Dion, 71 years old and retired, simply did not have the financial means to replace the old tank. “I live on a fixed income, and I just couldn’t afford it,” said Dion. “I’m nice and warm now.”

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