fans to help beat summer heat at the salvation army

Keeping Cool With The Salvation Army

A partnership with Westlake Ace Hardware helps beat summer heat

The hot summer months can be difficult for people in places like the Midwest, where temperatures can soar into the triple digits and conditions can actually threaten lives. But for almost 40 years, a little noticed program has helped relieve the burden for those most in need—the elderly and disabled—and done a great deal to help people cool down in the difficult summer heat.

You may never have heard of it, but the Salvation Army’s Summer Fan Program distributes free fans each summer to those in need. While the organization has summer fan programs here and there around the country, the one in the Omaha, Nebraska, area is now in its 39th year.

“People can enjoy some chill time—pun intended—in one of our many locations”

“It’s intended really for people that are the most vulnerable to the heat and uncomfortable summer temperatures, with the humidity and all of that,” says Susan Eustice, the Salvation Army’s director of public relations for the region. The program starts the first week of June and runs through the first week of September, and gives free electric fans to any home that does not have air conditioning. Those 50 years of age or older, or anyone with a medical disability, are given priority, Eustice says. “I think we’ve given away a couple of thousand fans to a couple of thousand households each year.”

“The summer fans seem to be extremely well received by people over the years,” says Eustice. An electric fan may not sound like it would have a big impact over the course of an extremely hot day, but Eustice says it can mean the difference between a home that’s bearable and one that might be advisable to leave. “It does just enough to circulate the air,” she added.

For people who don’t have cool enough homes or can’t be in a cool place on a hot day, the Salvation Army opens cooling stations when the temperature is going to be 90 degrees Fahrenheit or above for two consecutive days, Eustice says. “During our open hours, we will allow people to come in and sit down, have a cool drink,” Eustice says. “We’ll use the opportunity to ramp up awareness of the fan program, plus people can enjoy some chill time—pun intended—in one of our many locations across the city.”

The program got a bump about five years ago, Eustice says, when the Salvation Army started partnering with Westlake Ace Hardware. In the picture above, Salvation Army Major Trevor McClintock shows off a truck full of Westlake Ace Hardware fans, ready to be delivered by Payless Office Products to the Salvation Army.

“They started doing their own fan drives on behalf of the Salvation Army in several different markets in the Midwest,” Eustice told Good Turns recently, including locations in Omaha and Council Bluffs. “People go into a Westlake Ace Hardware during this two-week campaign, which is launched with a lot of festivity and live remote radio and food, and they can purchase a whole fan for us for $20, or they can purchase one, two, or three blades, in $5 increments.” In all, the hardware chain raised more than $118,000 for Salvation Army fan programs around the country.

“We depend on this program every single summer,” Eustice continued. “From them I believe we got about a thousand fans in the metropolitan area. If it weren’t for this partnership we would not have the resources to help the most vulnerbale people.”

“The hot humid air arrived really early this summer, even before June,” Eustice said. “We ran out of fans very quickly. They would get donated to us, they’d walk in one door, if you can imagine, and a client would walk out with a fan the next moment.” We think that’s pretty cool.

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