Why is it that at the most critical of moments, everything goes wrong? Your new car always starts, but now that you’re late for work it won’t budge. You get laid off the SAME day you get a massive bill. Few things are worse than the universe conspiring against you, right? After getting dealt the worst hand in history, one cash-strapped dad prepared to get flattened by the hand of a costly repairman – only to be completely blindsided.
It had been a rocky month for Jesse Hulscher and his wife Maria. Like most young couples, they had been struggling financially to carve out a new life together. And even though it wasn’t quite planned, they were determined to welcome their first son, Adler into the world. But just as things were finally looking up, he found an odd note attached to a repairman’s bill. Was it an extra charge? Some joke? Instead, what he found was something that had him scrambling for his phone.
Jesse and Maria live in Willmar, Minnesota. Everything was going so well for the young family. Jesse was making good money, they had their firstborn son and their bank account kept on expanding. Then, later in September 2016, they shared some big news with friends and family — the Hulscher family was about to become a foursome! They even celebrated by buying Maria a new car. But if something can go wrong, it will go wrong. Just when they thought things couldn’t get any better, Jesse came home one night to a sight he’ll never forget.
On the night of February 22nd, Jesse was totally caught off-guard. Though she wasn’t due until March, Maria was going into labor. That’s when Jesse knew things were about to get pretty rough for the young family. That night, she gave birth to a healthy 7-pound 9-ounce, 21-inch baby boy. Maria was recovering well, and the whole family was ecstatic about the new arrival. But they were so caught up in the excitement that the last thing they were thinking about was the weather, which would prove to be a critical mistake. Little did they know, it was this night that would turn their whole lives upside-down.
Though Minnesotans are used to heavy snowfall, sometimes they just have to stay indoors and ride it out. On the morning of February 22, the National Weather Service reported a big snow storm coming towards southern and central Minnesota. They issued a Winter Storm Watch and expected it would begin as heavy rain on the evening of Thursday, February 23, and change to heavy snow on Friday morning. Upon learning the news, the Hulschers figured they’d be okay as long as they stayed inside. But they couldn’t have been more wrong.
It was right about this time that Jesse began preparing everything to welcome Maria and the baby to the house. Everything seemed to be in order, so he hopped in the shower before driving to the hospital to pick them up. But as he finished up showering, the water went cold. Panicked, he went into the furnace room to see what was wrong. It was a nightmare come true. This really couldn’t be happening right now, could it?
The furnace in the house had gone out. Jesse tried to fix it himself, but to no avail. Knowing temperatures were likely to drop below 30°F (-1°C) that evening, he realized the danger it posed for his newborn baby. “Instantly I panicked,” he said. “I have a two-year-old here, a newborn coming home…and this was before the big potential snowstorm.” He picked up the phone, praying for a miracle. Jesse and Maria had no ability to fix the issue and the situation was looking extremely dire for these two well-meaning parents.
Jesse called a repairman that the family had employed a couple of times before. Unfortunately, he was completely booked and couldn’t make it to the Hulschers’ house in time. So Jesse went online to search for other repair companies in the area. But his bad luck wouldn’t budge. All of the companies he called were busy helping other customers prepare for the storm. His time was running out. Then he remembered a crucial thing.
Not long before, Jesse had a conversation with a neighbor, who told him about an AC and heating business in the area. The neighbor gushed about the company, talking about their diligence and great customer service. But Jesse couldn’t remember the name of the business. In a Hail Mary attempt, Jesse called his neighbor to ask for the details. It was a long shot, but he didn’t have any other choice.
The neighbor answered Jesse’s call and told him the name of the company: Magnuson Sheet Metal. He called them and spoke to co-owner Craig Aurand, trying his best to express the urgency of the situation. His plea worked, and a repairman was at his house within 20 minutes of hanging up. They were able to fix the furnace and get the heat up and running. A crisis had been averted and peace had returned to their household — until they saw the repairman’s bill.
Then, almost a month after the incident, Jesse opened the mailbox to find the invoice from Magnuson Sheet Metal. If you’ve ever had to have your furnace repaired, you know that it’s not a cheap venture. And if it’s an emergency call, the cost is usually doubled. That’s why Jesse wasn’t looking forward to opening up this invoice, but what he saw was something he couldn’t have ever prepared for.
The invoice listed the work that was done at Jesse’s house: “Repair furnace. Clean burners and pilot assembly.” But, in lieu of a dollar amount for the work performed, was this note: “No charge. Take care of the new baby.” “I didn’t know if it was a boy or girl, I didn’t know if I should get pink or blue,” the owner said. “So I figured, we’ll give the baby heat! How about that?” Jesse and Maria could not believe it. “I was like, ‘What? No. This can’t be real’,” recalled Maria. But it was.
Jesse took to Facebook to thank Craig and Magnuson for their service and amazing gesture. “Businesses like this earn customers for life! Thank you Craig and your staff for the amazing experience!” he wrote. The account touched so many hearts that it went viral, prompting a Minneapolis news station to air the story. What they found was that the good deed was not a one-off for Craig and his company.
According to the KMSP story, Craig has been known to help out families in need by forgiving small bills or doing work on holidays. It wasn’t long before comments started flooding in, confirming that Magnuson Heating and Cooling had done the same for others in the area, fixing furnaces and the like for free in the hope that the lucky recipient would pay it forward to someone else in need. “We didn’t do it for the PR, we just did it to be good people. That’s it. Just to be nice to these people,” he stated. “That’s what this is about.” Even so, the company has clearly built goodwill in the community.
Magnuson Sheet Metal’s Facebook business page was flooded with rave reviews and comments from people praising them for the gesture to the Hulschers. “It is a blessing to have companies such as yours that not only does great work but also takes care of your community,” wrote one commenter. The Hulschers themselves also vowed to be loyal customers — and also made one more promise.
“We will definitely be calling on your services again… just hopefully not too soon from now!” wrote Jesse on his Facebook post. Obviously, one always hopes not to need constant household repairs — but it’s good to know there’s a business you can count on to provide good and honest service. On top of that, Jessie and Maria decided to pay it forward by giving back to their community. After everything that had been given to them, they figured it was the least they could do.
When Jesse and Maria learned that Oliver, the infant son of their friend Shawn Block, was taken to the Children’s Hospital of Minnesota with a severe case of meningitis, they knew this was their chance. The Hulschers spread the word about Oliver’s plight and shared the family’s GoFundMe page to cover their medical expenses. By the end of February, the fundraising goal had been met. It just goes to show how one seemingly small gesture can start a wave of goodness that helps friends, family, and even complete strangers in need. Pay it forward!