Gloria Gray, suffering from breast cancer and myasthenia gravis, a debilitating autoimmune disease that affects the muscles, was struggling to pay her medical bills. After a mastectomy, she was only able to undergo one chemotherapy treatment. Doctors told her that chemo might worsen the myasthenia and further erode her ability to swallow.
To nominate a family to receive a new heating and cooling system, call (602) 235-0235 or visit:
She started getting naturopathic treatments, but they were expensive and not covered by insurance. When her air conditioning unit broke down, she scrambled to scrape together $250 for repairs. The technician told Gray she should consider a new unit, but she couldn’t afford it. When the AC failed again a few weeks later, Gray was at her wit’s end.
“I have an enclosed porch with an [evaporative] cooler and figured we’d just open the windows and let that cool the house,” Gray said. Paul Hobaica visited Gray and let her know the part the company had replaced earlier was guaranteed.
Gray took out her checkbook to pay for the service call, but Hobaica told her she didn’t have to pay anything.
“I just burst into tears. I told him I’m struggling with bills and cancer. He saw I was skin and bones, with only about an inch of hair,” Gray said. “I guess that’s why he put my name on the list.”
That list refers to those nominated to receive a new heating and cooling system free of charge from Hobaica Services through the BEGIN program. Each year the grassroots community development program accepts nominations of Maricopa County homeowners who are in dire need of — but cannot pay for — a new heating and cooling system. Candidates are announced each week during November and December.
Since the program’s inception, 32 families have benefitted and $143,000 in labor and equipment has been donated.
When Paul Hobaica called Gray in December, she figured he wanted to sell her a new unit, so she decided to ignore the call. But he called back and this time, she answered the phone. He told her he would be replacing her AC for free.
“Surely there must be people who need it more than I do,” she told Hobaica, but he insisted that she had been chosen.
“It was incredible,” Gray said. “I thought, ‘that must be God.’ I was just overwhelmed and I couldn’t even believe it.”
Her son recognized the Hobaica name from his years at Bourgade Catholic High School in the mid-1970s.
“It was so meaningful that someone from our past was involved in this blessing,” Gray said. “It’s been a big relief and we thank God for it.”
For Sue and Lucas Valdez, the BEGIN program was literally a lifesaver.
In 2009, Lucas spent 15 months in the hospital and rehabilitation for a mysterious illness doctors have yet to diagnose. He has a tracheotomy and is on oxygen. If it gets hot, he has difficulty breathing. The couple’s three children and two grandchildren reside with them.
“Every summer our AC goes out,” Sue said. “Every time we tried to save money for a new AC unit, but something always comes up with cars or schooling or the kitchen faucet.”
Sue’s sister-in-law heard about the BEGIN program and nominated the family for a new heating and cooling unit. The Valdez family was thankful to be chosen as a recipient last winter.
“This is the first summer we didn’t have to worry about the AC,” Sue said. “The kids and I could deal with no air conditioning — we’d just open all the windows and turn on the fans. But with Lucas, he has a trach and it’s too hard to breathe.”
The new unit, Sue said, “has been a real blessing. It’s helped a lot.”