Vietnam Veteran Tom Arends selected for gift of warmth

Tom Arends, left, of Gering, recently got a visit from the “prize patrol” with Gering Valley Plumbing and Heating. Arends was the recipient of a new furnace. Pictured with Arends is Aysha Dykes, who came up with the promotion and president Bill Schlaepfer. Schlaepfer said the award was a way to thank area veterans for their service and plans to continue the program in future years.

Vietnam veteran Tom Arends of Gering will be coming home to a warmer house soon once his new furnace is installed.

Arends was chosen from several veterans whose profiles were featured on the Gering Valley Plumbing and Heating Facebook page. The veteran who received the most votes from the public would receive a new, donated furnace.

“My furnace is about 30 years old, so it was time for a new one,” Arends said. “It’s been working off and on for some time and when it shuts down; it doesn’t come back on for a while. The new one will also be a lot more efficient.”

Just before Veterans Day, Aysha Dykes and the staff at Gering Valley Plumbing and Heating were discussing something the company could do to honor area veterans. That led to an internet search for similar projects around the country. They settled on giving away a new furnace to a veteran who was facing the unexpected major expense of replacing an old one.

Gering Valley Plumbing and Heating President Bill Schlaepfer said he thought it was a great idea when he first heard about it.

“The entire community has supported our company for more than 30 years,” he said. “This is a great way to say thank you and also help someone who could really use the help.”

The project got started with an invitation to friends of the company’s Facebook page to submit the name of a veteran who could use the help, along with a profile.

Once the deadline expired, five of the most intriguing stories were chosen to be featured on the company Facebook page. Then the public voted to decide.

“I was really happy to do it,” Schlaepfer said. “It’s a great program and I think we’re going to continue it every year because there are a lot of other veterans who need a helping hand. I can’t think of a more deserving group of people to be the recipients, so I wanted to give back to the veterans who give so much for us.”

The other four featured veterans will also be receiving some special gifts, which will be announced later.

For the past 17 years, Arends has been the commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1681 in Gering. He’s also been the district commander for about 10 years.

A Marine veteran, he served in the early days of the Vietnam War from 1965-1968.

We're always interested in hearing about news in our community. Let us know what's going on!

Jerry Purvis is a reporter with the Star-Herald. He can be reached at 308-632-9046 or emailed at

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