Nothing quite so fills our hearts, eyes, and hopes as the people who selflessly serve our country and communities, from military members to emergency and first responders. That’s why last November—Military Family Appreciation Month—we put out a call to nominate a hero or enter to win a chance at a free installation of the Harman Allure50, as a thank you for their selfless sacrifices and contributions to the community.
The response was overwhelming. Not only did we receive tons of entries, but the stories we received about selfless, compassionate and brave military members and first responders were not only touching, but filled with ingenuity and pride, which re-inspires us to continue to not only produce great products but also to go out and make the world a better place.
It wasn’t easy to choose, but ultimately we partnered with Rella Coal, American Panel Hearth, Duravent and Energex to install an Allure50 at the home of volunteer assistant fire chief Daniel DiPinto and his wife, Kim, in the Brookhaven Hamlet of Long Island in New York.
The Harman Allure50 Winner
“I was definitely surprised when I got the email that I won. I was ecstatic. I felt like the father in A Christmas Story, you know?” DiPinto says.
DiPinto spends his days as an employee for the New York State Parks system, but is on call 24/7 as an assistant chief of the all-volunteer fire department. Volunteer firefighting is simply “in the blood,” 33-year-old DiPinto says.
“My father joined the fire department when I was born in 1984, and I basically grew up in the firehouse,” he says. “My dad always says, if you want to help the community, join the department.”
In fact, DiPinto’s father made the national news and was honored at a Jets game after a particularly timely save. While getting ready for bed, he heard a car crash and ran outside. The first person confirmed they were all right, but the second was stuck in their vehicle, on train tracks. Daniel’s father was able to pull them from the car just moments before a train totaled it.
The Volunteer Firefighter Lifestyle
DiPinto joined his father and brother in the firehouse at a pivotal time in first responder services—right before 9/11. “That was a big turning point for the fire service and our departments,” he says. “Trainings got a lot harder, more time had to be devoted to it, and the community started to see that the amount of times the trucks went in and out of their neighborhoods.” In fact, calls nearly doubled in yearly volume—the volunteer staff now responds to about 700 calls a year, from house fires to car accidents to accidental alarms.
But the sheer volume of work to be done didn’t deter DiPinto. In 2014, he decided to move up the ranks, starting as lieutenant. In 2016, he became the captain, and in 2017 he was named the second assistant chief.
Close calls have continued to fuel his fire for volunteerism. “Years ago, I was called to a car accident, where only one person was involved. He was unconscious in the car and we had to cut him out with the Jaws of Life. We removed him from the vehicle, administered CPR, and he ended up living, thank God, and thanks to the quick action by us and the EMTs. It was unbelievable.”
But, DiPinto adds, not everyone has to become an on-call firefighter to make a difference in the community. “There’s never an abundance of volunteers. The biggest thing is that you have to make the commitment and take that extra step. Any little bit helps out.”
Harman Helps a Helper
Daniel and his wife, Kim, purchased their home—next door to Daniel’s parents—in October of 2016. “We were so lucky, we got a great deal on the house. We were looking to buy and he was looking to leave, so we made an agreement. The house needs fixing up, the windows are drafty, and the other night a pipe burst on me,” he says. “My wife works a normal 9-5 and we live paycheck to paycheck with what the taxes are on Long Island. But we make it our home, and as nice as we can. This is such a huge help with heating and oil costs.”
“Rella Coal was phenomenal from start to finish, donating their time and being complete hearth professionals,” says Karen Smeltz, brand director at Harman. “We are very proud to have the Harman brand so well represented by Jonathan, Anne Marie and the entire team at Rella Coal. The install looks terrific and was very well organized.”
Jonathan’s enthusiasm was evident. “As soon as I hear about the Hero Giveaway, my eyes got big and bright and I said, Sign me up! Karen could call me today and I’d do it again,” he says. “It takes a certain amount of guts, going into someone’s burning house while they’re running out.”
“It’s nice to hear about the gratitude,” DiPinto says. “I’d like to think we’re the heart of the community—if there’s an issue, we’re going to be the ones to come and provide aid on someone’s worst day. It’s a big responsibility, but it makes you feel happy and proud to help.”
We were happy to give back by helping Daniel and Kim get the right heat for their home. Fueling a tight-knit community, keeping homes and hearts warm, and helping a helper—that’s what the Harman brand is all about.
"The Harman family does a great job; to give back they way they do is unbelievable,” DiPinto says. “It’s definitely a family oriented company. They make you feel like you are one of them.”