DALLAS — Joe Flande celebrated his 25th anniversary owning Home Comfort in Dallas this past spring. Over the decades, he’s frequently given back to the community that has trusted his company’s service. This list is so extensive, one almost wonders who he hasn’t shared his charitable spirit with.
“This community supports me, Home Comfort, my employees and my family. I chose to do these things, one, out of love. Two, because I’m not about money,” Flande said
So Flande was completely surprised when the Dallas Chamber of Commerce honored him recently with its Lifetime Achievement Award.
“I appreciate the award. It was totally unexpected,” Flande said. “It’s a real feel-good thing. It’s nice to see (his philanthropy) recognized. I always do things. You don’t know if they’re appreciated or not or if anyone recognizes it.”
He recalled his humble beginnings, growing up in Stayton, marrying his sweetheart, Vickie, in 1975. When they moved into their first apartment together, they used boxes for chairs and tables.
“We came from nothing to what we have today,” Flande said.
Now 67, Flande purchased the Dallas Home Comfort in 1996 after working there for seven years. He has since grown the company from eight employees to 40, gaining loyal and grateful customers over the years.
“I love this community. It gives to me by doing business with me. People are great here. I love Dallas, that’s why we moved here,” he said.
Going on 20 years now living in Dallas, Flande found some way to give back to others in need, big or small. For example, bring in two cans of food to donate to the Dallas Food Bank and get $15 off your HVAC installation bill.
Another example was Home Comfort’s Feel the Love Program. Customers nominated other people in dire need, but couldn’t afford, a new heating and air conditioning system.
“We gave away and installed one absolutely free,” Flande said. “We also scraped her moss up and raked her yard while we were there. The appreciation, she probably sent me five thank you letters.”
His office in the back of the Home Comfort administration building features a rotating display of thank you cards from grateful recipients of his philanthropy. He ticked off the groups he’s donated services or money toward over the years:
Breast Cancer Awareness
Kids Wish Network
James2 Community Kitchen
Central FFA, Faith Christian
Doernbecher Pediatric Hospital
The Independence Gate Youth Association
He also donated $25,000 to get the artificial turf installed at Dallas High School’s football field. As president of Polk County Fair Foundation, he donated another $5,000 to the Polk County Fair last year when all its scheduled events were shut down due to the pandemic.
His list of others he’s helped out just went on and on: Dallas Booster Club, Dallas Rotary Club, Titus 3 House, Polk County Community Free Clinic, Dallas High School’s All Night Party for graduating seniors, Adopt-a-Family, Dallas Food Bank, Holiday Food Drive, Dallas High School fundraisers.
And somewhere along the way, he found time to be a Boy Scouts troop master for nine years.
“My heart goes out to the elderly people, children and people in need in general. I try to find the positive in everyone, not the negative. You can choose what you’re going to focus on and can chose your own attitude. I choose not to let others affect my attitude. It can be hard sometimes,” he said.
Flande added when it comes to home HVAC, if there’s someone out there who truly does not have the money to fix or replace their system, he’ll help them.
“I don’t want anybody to die because they can’t afford to pay me,” he said.
As much as he likes to point out all those he’s helped over the years, Flande can’t help but recall the one he couldn’t.
“Someone elderly, a 90-year-old man, went down to his basement from the outside. They hadn’t even called us because they knew they couldn’t afford it. But he went down and tried to fix it himself, but he slid down the ice and he died. I would have helped,” he said.
With a daughter in Washington, his son, Ben has since become co-owner of Home Comfort, with eyes of replacing his old man some day. While he’s reluctant to pass on the mantle, Flande admits it’s probably been since 1990 that he’s had more than a week off from work.
“My son Ben is slowly moving into the owner’s position. But I don’t see myself not doing it. I love it. I love people. We’re like a family. We’re a team. I don’t consider myself the boss. I’m the owner, not the boss,” he said.