NewsPositively Hampton Roads


Man in Virginia Beach gets his heat back after enduring several cold winters

Posted at 3:25 PM, Nov 26, 2019
and last updated 2019-11-26 20:34:08-05

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - Think you can't live without heat for one cold day? Try four years, which is exactly how long Charles Wright had to endure the cold.

Wright has a metal wood stove that he could not use in those four years. It was his only source of heat.

Charles Wright

Wood pieces would need to be placed inside the stove, and heat comes out of four small circular vents to heat the home. It has a pipe that comes out from the back, goes through the ceiling and outside to disperse the smoke from the burned wood.

"It’s primitive but still effective," Wright said. "They’ve been doing that for many years before we even had electricity."

The pipes were in bad shape and needed to be replaced, which would have cost him almost $1,000.  He was also in a car accident in 2014 that left him disabled and out of work.

"Summer of 2014, when a distracted driver on the cellphone made an illegal U-turn," he explained, "slammed into my car and now I’ve got three additional herniated discs.”

Not able to pay for the fixes, he had to put up with the frigid winters. The heat is now back on.

“I know there’s a lot of genuine people in the world, but sometimes you don’t really realize it until you get to know somebody," Carol Shenkenberger, one of Wright's neighbors, said. "He’s one of those people.”

Shenkenberger took action and reached out to people on NextDoor and started a GoFundMe. Help poured in and with more than $4,000 raised, the piping was fixed as well as other needed fixes. She said local businesses also helped at no charge.

Related: News 3 takes action to help Newport News family struggling without heat 

“I think that says perfect things about the community," Shenkenberger said. "There’s a lot going on in this area that people don’t even recognize.”

Wright said he wore a sub-zero suit in previous years that he says can protect someone in up to minus-50-degree-below-zero weather. He obtained the suit when he was a merchant mariner. Now, he says he will not be using that suit as much.

His neighbors still check in on him and help with chores such as cutting up firewood for the stove.

“It’s pretty overwhelming, a lot of gratitude. I don’t even think words can express," He said. "All I can do is just thank God and the people that came together to make this happen.”