Custom Search

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Charlotte's Poor & Seniors Suffer Most From Heat Wave: Fan & Air Conditioner Donations Needed

For the Poor, Heat is harder to escape

It’s like someone built a fire under the house.

That’s how Carolyn Farmer, 47, of Charlotte, describes what it has been like sleeping without air conditioning in recent weeks, as temperatures bounced between 90 and 100.

“It’s so hot, the mattress sticks to you,” Farmer said.

“I have a fan, but it just blows the hot air. You don’t sleep. You just stay up all night drinking water so you don’t dehydrate.”

On Friday – when the temperature hit 97 – Farmer was first in line as Crisis Assistance Ministry’s Free Furniture Bank began giving out nearly 1,000 air conditioners donated by Charlotte-based Electrolux.

It was one example of how charities and businesses are reaching out to help vulnerable people stay cool in this dangerously hot stretch of summer.

The heat wave is expected to continue with temperatures at or near 100 degrees Saturday and Sunday. The heat index likely will approach 105 degrees daily along and southeast of Interstate 85, forecasters say.

Electrolux officials said their gift comes in direct response to the heat.

Mayaanne Mays, 42, was among those who came for a free air conditioner. She has epilepsy and said she has been without air conditioning for more than a year. As the heat has worsened, so have her seizures, she said.

Mays didn’t have transportation and intended to carry the 45-pound appliance home on her lap via a city bus.

An Electrolux employee offered to give her a ride instead, and she accepted.

“This is going to change my life,” Mays said. “It’s 95 degrees in my house in the middle of the night. I have spent a lot of time at neighbors’ houses, just to stay cool.”

Antoinette Davis, who is also disabled, said she has been without air conditioning all year and has taken to occasionally sticking her head in the refrigerator, just to breathe the cool air.

The 48-year-old said the heat has made her dizzy at times and even blurred her vision.

“I would go to a park and sit under a tree, because it was actually cooler than my house,” she said.

The heat has also prompted the Red Cross to open a cooling station for the second weekend in a row at uptown’s Hal Marshal Annex, and the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Senior Centers has issued a plea for donated fans after exhausting its supply of 700 in a record four weeks.

Crisis Assistance Ministry is also seeing an increase in people needing help paying utility bills, including those who lived through the spring without electricity, but now find the heat unbearable.

Tovi Lynn Martin of Crisis Assistance likens it to “camping out in your house.” The agency sees an average of 200 people a day.

“With no power and no water, there comes a point when people are jeopardizing their health,” Martin said.

Red Cross officials said it’s the same concern that prompted the opening of a cooling center at 618 N. College St. this weekend. The center attracted 80 to 150 people last weekend, including the elderly, disabled and homeless.

“When temperatures get in the triple digits, it’s necessary for people to get out of the heat and some simply have no place else to go,” said Kate Meier of the Red Cross.

The Crisis Assistance Free Furniture Bank provides donated furniture to low-income families via referrals. Carol Hardison, executive director of Crisis Assistance, noted appliances are in short supply, making the Electrolux gift much needed.

Caryn Klebba of Electrolux said the giveaway, valued at $140,000, marks a first for the company, which has about 700 employees in Charlotte.

Klebba said the company contacted Crisis Assistance because the agency has the capability of screening recipients quickly.

Carolyn Farmer said she didn’t believe it at first when she heard of the offer.

“I’m going to cook my first meal in a long time tonight, thanks to God and Electrolux,” she said. “It’s been too hot to cook, and I’ve been eating cold cuts too long.”

View Larger Map

Sources: McClatchy Newspapers, WCNC, Google Maps

No comments: