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Shortage of donations leaves dozens without air conditioning units

By Nadine Maeser, nmaeser@wdbj7.com
Published On: Jun 09 2014 10:13:05 PM EDT
Updated On: Jun 09 2014 11:16:44 PM EDT

With temperatures well into the 80's in early June, some seniors are left wondering how they are going to stay cool with this summer's weather.

ROANOKE, Va. -

Dozens of people in the region are trying to beat the heat.

With temperatures well into the 80's in early June, some people are left wondering how they are going to survive the summer weather.

A local group has always been able to help those in need when it comes to getting air conditioning, but there are concerns over how well it will be able to do that this year.

The Local Office on Aging has had issues providing fans or air conditioning units to people over the age of 60 for the past three years. That’s when federal funding was cut leaving the program with no choice but to operate on donations.

LOA has managed to get by, but organizers have yet to see a donation come in this year and those fans and air conditioning units are already in high demand.

Benjamin Rawlings said his unit is the only thing that gets him through the summer heat.

"I just got it and I'm very thankful,” he said. “As you know, you just came from outside, so I'm glad."

Rawlings lives in Melrose Towers. It’s an independent living community that does not have central air conditioning.

Rawlings said he has no choice but to cover his windows with dark sheets, run a fan and count on LOA’s Fan Care program for an AC unit. He said without the program, his health would be in jeopardy.

"Summer hasn't really gotten here yet,” he said when talking about the recent high temperatures. “It would be very uncomfortable. Unbearable."

Rawlings considers himself one of the lucky ones.

Right now, there's a growing list of people, over the age of 60 with health problems, who need an AC unit. Problem is, donations are low which means supplies are limited. Despite budget constraints, LOA has managed to buy 16 units, but it only has six left.

“We're going to run out of these this week and then we aren't going to have any,” said Elaine Engleman.

Engleman heads up the cooling assistance program for LOA and she said this is toughest year so far. She has yet to see any contributions from the community and said this is not the season to have a shortage.

"We've been in some of these houses that are hot and these people are just melting in them,” said Engleman.

Jimmy Hodge can vouch for that. He lives on the top floor of Melrose Towers and said the unit that came with his place is on its last leg. The 75-year-old said he's felt his apartment get as hot as 90 to 100 degrees, but with a limited income he doesn’t have many options as to what he can do to help keep his place cool.

"I can't afford one,” said Hodge. “If the LOA don't help me I don't know what I'll do."

You have to be at least 60-years-old to be considered for the cooling assistance program. You also have to live in a place that does not have central air or air conditioning of any kind.

LOA gives priority to those with health problems.

Engleman said LOA gets a lot of people who want to donate used units, but they cannot accept those due to health and fire regulations.

LOA accepts donations of new fans and air conditioners or cash donations to purchase additional new fans.

If you would like to donate, make checks payable to LOA Cooling Assistance and send to P.O. Box 14205, Roanoke, VA 24038-4205.

You can also drop off any new unit to the office located at 706 Campbell Ave SW in Roanoke.

Donations are tax deductible.

If you have any questions about Fan Care call (540) 345-0451