Anna Yahn fired up her gas furnace for the second time this fall on Friday night, when the temperature fell to 43 degrees in Lawrence.
Lucky for her, Dennis Wingert and Jim Hart showed up at her East Lawrence home the next morning.
Wingert and Hart, who are members of the Plumbers and Pipefitters Union, Local No. 763, were among 40 volunteers who fanned out Saturday morning across Lawrence to inspect heating systems in 39 homes occupied by some of the city's poor, disabled and elderly residents.
The HEAT'S ON program -- that's Handicapped and Elderly Assistance to Service Our Neighborhoods -- has been coordinated in Lawrence since 1989 by the Ballard Community Center.
The volunteer inspection crews, using trucks provided by Chaney Inc. and Huxtable & Associates, inspected and cleaned furnaces and hot water tanks, replaced batteries in smoke alarms and installed carbon monoxide detectors to protect residents from the colorless, odorless and poisonous gas, which is an exhaust product of gas furnaces.
"You put something back in the community that's been good to you," said Bill Roberts, business manager and financial secretary for the pipefitter's union, which provided most of the volunteer two-man crews. "You try to help people out and let everybody know we're part of the community."
The inspections, recommended for all homes at this time of the year, would ordinarily cost between $50 and $75, Roberts said.
"It's always a good idea to have all of your equipment in good order," he said.
Yahn, a retired Kansas University reference librarian who turns 90 next month, doesn't get down to her basement much these days. So the annual inspection was welcome and, as it turned out, important.
Wingert and Hart found that a ventilation pipe from her 1966 furnace had rusted and had holes -- a potential hazard because of leaking carbon monoxide. They replaced the corroded pipe with a new one.
"Once you find something like this," Hart said, "you're glad you came out."