November 10, 2008 12:00 PM

Von “Dallas” Gigrich 53, Lake Forest Park, Wash.

Eleven years ago, Gigrich, who runs a company that removes old home-oil tanks, learned from his teacher wife that some of her students’ families couldn’t afford to heat their homes. He had an idea: Why not give the surplus oil in the decommissioned tanks to people who needed it? With HEAT (Home Energy Assistance Team), Gigrich and his six oil-company employees have given away about three months worth of home-heating oil to 200 households each every year. “I grew up poor,” says Gigrich. “I know what it feels like to need.” Even with a recent drop in oil prices, Gigrich says, there’s plenty of need to go around. Just ask Vicki Bloom, a mom of three who just lost her job as a clerk—and got 150 gallons of oil courtesy of Gigrich. Says Bloom: “This is such a relief.”

Please tune in to “CNN HEROES: An All-Star Tribute” featuring the best of “PEOPLE’s 2008 Heroes Among Us,” hosted by CNN’s Anderson Cooper, on Thanksgiving, Thursday, Nov. 27, at 9 p.m. on CNN.

Know a hero? Send suggestions to HEROESAMONGUS@PEOPLEMAG.COM

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