There certainly are more pressing needs in the lives of the children and the families that stay at the Believe in Tomorrow House on the Johns Hopkins Hospital campus in Baltimore.

Still, the security in knowing there will be hot water throughout the building is a comforting feeling to the staff assisting these families in need.

Back in April 2014, Believe in Tomorrow’s Director of Hospital Housing Operations Sean Morrison spotted a large ring of rusty water pooling around one the building’s two, 120-gal. water heaters. Even though the facility was able to continue operating without an issue, Morrison knew it was time to pick up the phone and figure out the proper course of action.

“I had a local plumber come out and take a look as well as other people who volunteer here,” he says. “Whenever something like this happens we have a network of people we reach out to that are local and handy and can give us advice.

“We realized this problem was larger than our average repair.”

So Morrison and the Believe in Tomorrow team continued to work the phones and its trusted resources for help. After a few months, a new 119-gal. A. O. Smith Gold Series DRE electric water heater was acquired and installed at no cost to Believe in Tomorrow.

“People came out of the woodwork to help us,” Morrison says.

Had this been a re-plumbing of a broken sink or a garbage disposal replacement, Morrison says his team could have handled the issue in-house. Morrison reports it took eight weeks from procurement of the DRE to installation.

“That’s pretty quick,” he notes. “The first month of the process was just a lot of emails going back and forth with what the specs were. Once we had that hammered out, from the time A. O. Smith shipped the unit until it was installed was less than a week.”


Running smoothly

The Believe in Tomorrow Children’s House is a 15-bedroom facility that opened in 1986 to provide a family-centered, supportive community of residents that have come together because of a critically-ill child. The facility has 18 showers, more than 20 faucets, four dishwashers and four washing machines.

Since opening, the Believe in Tomorrow group reports it has provided more than 600,000 individual overnight stays, with families coming from every state and 76 countries. According to Morrison, the occupancy rate comes in at more than 95%, equaling more than 600 families per year.

“It’s a 24/7 operation,” he says. “There is always somebody here. These are families in critical need of help.”

The three-story downtown building, surrounded by other world-renowned medical facilities, makes use of all its space. The new A. O. Smith water heater is tucked away in the corner of the building’s basement. There is just enough room for one person to get close enough to the building’s water heaters without the facility’s staff using man-hours to move around shelving racks full of cleaning supplies, paper towels and toilet paper. Because of that Morrison is incredibly pleased they were able to install an A. O. Smith water heater.

“For them to do a full donation — covering the cost of freight, etc. — I was thrilled. It will last us a very long time,” he says.

Matt Schulz, a senior product manager for commercial products with A. O. Smith, says he was initially contacted by its long-time Baltimore-area rep firm, N.H. Yates (pme’s 2012 Manufacturers Rep of the Year), to see if there was an opportunity to help the Believe in Tomorrow Children’s House.

“We get quite a few (donation) inquires, but we are obviously not able to participate in every one,” he says. “This one was unique in that the need was so great. We were happy to help.”

The DRE is a dedicated commercial-only unit manufactured at A. O. Smith’s McBee, S.C., plant. The unit also has an individual element thermostat allowing for more precise temperature control ranging from 120° to 180° F. One feature in particular, according to Schulz, makes it ideal for a facility such as the Believe in Tomorrow Children’s House.

“The gold-plated heating elements of the unit do not allow scale to adhere to the surface of the heating coil,” he explains. “Without scale building, the result is longer life. We knew in this application that these units would see a lot of usage. That was one of the main reasons for selecting the DRE – for a high gallon-per-day application.”

Additionally, if Believe in Tomorrow finds an opportunity to add components to the Baltimore facility, the DRE will be ready to handle additional loads.

“The DRE can handle up to nine heating elements,” Schulz says. “If they need more water we can convert the unit to a higher kW. We have UL-approved conversion kits. Say they are at 18 kW today and they do an addition, we could go up to 45 kW with the same unit just by changing out the elements and making the rating plate changes.”

Annapolis-Md.-based firm Bauer Mechanical offered its time and labor for the installation.

“Anytime there is a need like this, my guys always will step up,” says Jeff Bauer, senior vice president of Bauer Mechanical. “Getting involved with this type of job goes a long way and provides us with a meaningful opportunity to give back to families in need.”


Critical mission

Since the installation was completed in late summer 2014, Morrison says there has been a lot of peace of mind at the Believe in Tomorrow House. “It has allowed the staff to concentrate on other improvements we want to make,” he states.

Believe in Tomorrow, Morrison explains, has plans to expand its reach throughout the United States in the coming years. In the spring of 2016, the group hopes to break ground on a facility in Deep Creek, Md., which is in the mountain range in the western portion of the state. Here, families will be able to get away from the city and enjoy some quality family time while the children are in the middle of treatment.

“It will be our biggest facility to date,” Morrison says. “This certainly is a project that we need a lot of help on with the plumbing and mechanical systems.”

There also are plans to expand in the Colorado Springs, Colo., region in the next few years.

At the Baltimore facility, Schulz says he takes a lot of pride in being able to assist the children and parents who have the unfortunate circumstances of having to stay at the Believe in Tomorrow house. After a long day, thinking about if you will be able to take a hot shower should not be a concern.

“The families there obviously are under a lot of stress,” Schulz says. “Hot water should be the last thing they have to worry about considering what is on their plates. It feels good to be able to provide something we are experts in to make sure hot water is not a challenge.”

Without the help of Schulz and A. O. Smith, N.H. Yates, Bauer Mechanical and others, keeping the Believe in Tomorrow Children’s House running at full speed would be very tough. That is why Morrison is happy to have their trust and backing.

“We have been around for so long that we are accustomed to the support, but we never cease to be humbled by a company’s generosity,” he says. 

This article was originally titled “Helping hand” in the February 2016 print edition of PM Engineer.