Program donates fans, air conditioners to needy seniors

dstephens@newsobserver.comJune 27, 2012 

  • How To Help Cool for Wake The county-sponsored programs accepts tax deductable monetary donations as well as new air conditioning units at 220 Swineburne St. in Raleigh. For information, call Cool for Wake at 919-212-7083. Operation Cool-Down The Helping Hand Mission accepts new or gently-used fans or air conditioning units at 623 Rock Quarry Road or 501 New Bern Ave. For information, go to

— As temperatures threaten to rise into the triple digits for the first time this summer, Cool for Wake, a county program that donates fans and air conditioning units, is helping the elderly stay cool.

Since 1995, Cool for Wake has provided seniors with fans and air conditioners during the summer months. The sweltering temperatures of a North Carolina summer can be dangerous for anyone, but can be particularly harmful to seniors who can’t find refuge from the heat.

“It’s more than just about comfort,” said Denise Kissel, the resource development specialist for Wake County’s Department of Community Affairs. “During the summer, so many chronic health conditions can put someone... in the hospital. For so many seniors, it is a medical issue.”

Cool for Wake was derived from a similar temperature relief program called Warmth for Wake, which provides jackets and sweaters to the needy during the winter.

The program is supported by a grant from Progress Energy and from donations, which have diminished in recent years. This year’s program started Memorial Day and has given away more than 75 fans and air conditioners. It typically reaches more than 300 households in a summer.

“We would like to expand what we do, but lack of funding prevents us from doing that,” said Kissel.

The Helping Hand Mission in Raleigh also struggles to keep up with demand for fans and air conditioners through an 11-year-old program it calls Operation Cool-Down. Sylvia Wiggins, director of the Helping Hand Mission, said that as of Wednesday it had given out more than 280 fans and air conditioners this year, with demand continuing to grow.

Two of those fans went to Angela Howard, who will use them to help cool the house she shares with her son, niece and nephew.

“It’s hard to sleep at night because of the heat,” said Howard, 51. “Before, I had to cook earlier in the morning because it would get too hot to cook during the daytime.

Howard said the donated fans were a godsend. “I’m grateful, because I couldn’t afford it with my income,” she said.

Stephens: 919-829-4563

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