CINCINNATI — Shortly after Al Loving graduated Taft High School, he joined the U.S. Air Force because he figured “this country needed some help.”
Even though he's since left the service, Loving has continued to help his country by serving those in need at home for the last 29 years.
It started when Loving joined the Air Force as an aircraft mechanic in 1985. There, he found himself working on the SR-71 Blackbird, the sleek craft that became a symbol of Cold War surveillance, and the imposing B-52 bomber, in the dead of Maine winter.
“I froze to death there … for real … it’s like 60 below zero out there without a wind chill factor, and I worked outside,” Loving said.
When he left the military, he decided to put his skills as an aircraft mechanic to work toward his civilian certification. To pay the bills while he was in school, Loving took a job with People Working Cooperatively, a Cincinnati nonprofit that makes home repairs for those who have limited means.
That includes everything from bathroom repairs to installing accessible ramps to new porch projects and more.
“I’ve put on roofs, I’ve done plumbing, I’ve done HVAC work,” Loving said. “You name it, and I can go out and do it.”
Loving said he enjoys helping people in need so much, he ended up staying with PWC even after he finished school. He's still there.
“When you’re at homes and people can’t decide if they want to pay their gas and electric, or they want to pay their house note — that’s an issue," he said. "So I just love staying here and helping people."
Army veteran Wyatt Robbins also found sanctuary in helping others at PWC. He recalled visiting a Vietnam veteran to make necessary repairs to his home’s outdated furnace. Without those repairs, Robbins said, the man and his family could have died.
“His furnace would have killed him and his two kids because it was emitting (carbon monoxide) into the living space,” the Lebanon High School graduate said.
Robbins, who has been with PWC for eight years, said that repairs shows the organization’s focus on making homes safe for their residents.
“They don't just concentrate on one aspect — they concentrate on repairing the home, getting the home livable, so they can stay in their house safely,” he said.
On another job, Robbins installed insulation for a woman living in an older home that had none. When he told the woman there was no charge to replace it, Robbins said the woman hugged him, thanking him as she cried.
“She was in awe that that could be done and not charge her a dime,” Robbins said.
Loving said while he could have continued turning wrenches on planes after he got out of the Air Force, he agrees being able to turn people’s lives around for the better is more fulfilling.
“When I tell them they’re getting something and they aren’t going to have to pay for it, they get to crying, and then I call my wife — I got another crier,” Loving said. “I can’t describe it. It’s a reward you can’t get anywhere else.”
You can support the mission of PWC and the work of veterans like Loving and Robbins at PWC’s 4th annual ToolBelt Ball on March 21. For more information, click here.
Full transparency WCPO is a media sponsor for People Working Cooperatively and Craig McKee serves on their Development Committee.