What do an inventor, a Jefferson County food pantry and a brand-new type of heating system have in common? All three are working together to solve a local problem and potentially help change the world.
It’s a story that began decades ago in a food pantry. Now, a Missouri man is bringing things full-circle with a priceless donation.
The Arnold Food Pantry has a problem. It doesn't have enough room to store all the donations from its generous supporters.
“We are at storage capacity. We have nowhere else to put anything. We don't ever want to turn away any food that's given to us,” said Arnold Food Pantry Executive Director Terri Ferguson.
There is a storage building on the pantry's property. But the old, inefficient heating system inside doesn't control the climate well enough to safely store food.
Enter Allen Coggins, inventor of the patent-pending Thermasi Heating System.
“Basically we create more usable heat with less energy,” said Coggins.
Tuesday, Coggins donated a fully-functional prototype of the clean energy heating system as well as the ductwork and all the labor to install it in the pantry's storage building.
The Arnold Food Pantry is the largest independent food distribution center in the St. Louis area and gets no federal, state or United Way funding. That means every penny counts when it comes to things like the energy bill.
“We believe it's going to cut it in half. This donation can really end up being a game changer for us,” said Ferguson.
Coggins is an Arnold native and as a child his parents sometimes got assistance from a food pantry. Now, as an entrepreneur and inventor, he's giving back to the kind of cause that helped him and his family.
“What they're doing here is amazing and they continue to help people,” said Coggins. “My mother and father didn't want to live off the food pantry, they just needed a hand up. And I believe in helping people and giving them a hand up.”
The Thermasi System is also capable of running on solar and other alternative energies. Ferguson says she hopes to fully switch over to Coggins’ system in the coming years and completely eliminate the heating bill.
Meanwhile, Coggins hopes his invention will catch the eye of the Breakthrough Energy Coalition, a clean energy project started by Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates.