Need for air conditioners heating up

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Shelly Birkelo
Saturday, May 24, 2014

JANESVILLE—Two people stood along Milton Avenue holding up car wash signs while another waved and directed traffic into the parking lot of Janesville Wesleyan Church, 967 Benton Ave.

Proceeds of Saturday's three-hour fundraiser would benefit Voluntary Action Center's Air Conditioners for Seniors Program by providing money to buy and deliver new and used units.

It helps provide needed relief to low-income, health-challenged seniors in Rock County, said David Zimdars, executive director.

VAC works with the Rock County Council on Aging to reduce heat-related illness for seniors. And during the past 13 years it has placed 384 air conditioners in the homes of seniors in need, he said.

The need remains.

“We've had 15 requests and five people already have received air conditioners,” Zimdars said.

“The hotter it gets, the faster the requests come in,” he said.

The hot summer of 2012 is proof of that. VAC placed 70 air conditioners that summer.

On average, between 20 and 30 air conditioners get placed each summer.

The biggest challenge is finding air conditioners for high-rise apartments that have sleeves in the wall but do not provide the senior the air conditioner, Zimdars said.

These big units are more expensive and cost three times what other window air conditioners do, he said.

Last year church members raised $400 for the cause.

The goal Saturday was to wash enough cars to raise at least $500, said the Rev. Jason Benjestorf.

“We should be involved with the community and want to be of service to the community,” he said.

Benjestorf contacted VAC in 2013 when Zimdars suggested the opportunity.

“It saves lives for the older population over 60 who are health-challenged and susceptible to heat,” Zimdars said.

Plans continue for an annual car wash to benefit the air conditioner program, which thrills Zimdars, who said such fundraisers are vital to VAC.

“I'm the only full-time employee so we couldn't do a car wash,” he said.

But members of Janesville Wesleyan can.

Erin Dyer, 11, a member of the church youth group, her 13-year-old brother Bryce, and 10-year-old sister Emma, are proof of that.

This is “pretty fun,” she said.

“It feels “good” to help, Bryce added.

The car wash is just one of many community projects of the church, Benjestorf said.

When there is a fifth Sunday during the month, church is canceled and members do works of compassion in the community, he said.

“We have to be involved in the community to see Christ's work in the community,” Benjestorf said.

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