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Builders Care provides NFM man with new A/C

By CHUCK BALLARO - | Nov 11, 2020

Lee BIA Builders Care members march toward the house of Jon Smith on Monday, who came to install a brand-new air conditioning unit for him.


North Fort Myers resident Jon Smith lived without an air conditioning unit for 15 years. This, though, can be a problem as you grow older and have some health issues.

Monday, Smith got the surprise of his life when the Lee BIA Builders Care came to give him the life-changing gift of a new air conditioning unit for his home on Ridgeway Drive.

Lee BIA Builders Care partnered with St. Clair’s Custom Air, Ferguson HVAC and RUUD to replace the air conditioning unit at no cost to the homeowner, the work on which came immediately.

Smith, a 42-year resident, said he only had fans to keep cool, and even then, it was hot. He was surprised when he saw the army of people coming to help him.

“I got physically sick a few times because of the heat. When I saw all these people coming by, I thought it was for something at school,” Smith said. “I was shocked. I thought they were going to measure something. I’m very happy.”

Crystal Stouten, executive director for Builders Care, said the A/C unit is much needed for Smith.

“Having no air conditioner was posing a health and safety risk for him, with his blood circulation, being elderly and disabled, so we’re here to show our support,” Stouten said.

The 2.5-ton unit, with installation, would typically cost around $5,000, a cost Smith would not have been able to afford with his fixed income and medical expenses, and the windows in his home weren’t compatible for a window unit.

So, since 2006, Smith lived without air conditioning, with only a fan to keep cool. Summers were very uncomfortable.

A visiting nurse aid was the one who nominated him after visiting the home and noticing the heat. He applied on Smith’s behalf and told them his story.

“He was coming to change my bandages and he was really hot. That’s where it started. He told me I could get other services and he set it up,” Smith said.

Charles Thornton, territory manager for Ferguson HVAC, and Greg St. Clair, owner of St. Clair’s Custom Air, said it was an emotional moment being able to do something like this.

“As a contractor, you don’t have many chances to give back because it’s all consuming. Every home we’ve done something like this, it’s been pretty spectacular,” St. Clair said, who said it was 93 degrees in the house when he went to evaluate it. “You get a really good feeling out of it.”

“We take for granted being able to go home and turn the A/C on. For 15 years, he hasn’t been able to do that,” Thornton said. “I was born and raised here and I wouldn’t go without air.”

Builders Care is a non-profit organization which provides emergency construction services to elderly and/or disabled homeowners and veterans in Lee County. It has done more than 470 projects since being founded in 2005.

Stouten said this year has been different with COVID, as Builders Care had to close down for a few months so they wouldn’t potentially expose those they help, the most vulnerable.

As for Smith, when asked what he would do next…

“I’m going to turn it on. It’s going to make living a whole lot better,” Smith said. “Lying in bed sweating all night is not fun.”