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Donations to air conditioner program generous but they can't keep pace with demand for them

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Shelly Birkelo
Saturday, August 4, 2012

— Deb and Terry McCann decided five years ago they wanted to focus their giving on smaller, more immediate ways to help local charities.

This year for the first time, the Voluntary Action Center and its air conditioners for seniors program was among their beneficiaries.

The program that provides new and used cooling units to low-income seniors with heat-related medical conditions appealed to the McCann's because it's local.

"It seems like a privilege to give to things like that," Deb said.

"To be able to see something really immediate and be able to give to that, it's very gratifying," she said.

The McCann's aren't alone.

Donations of cash and new and used air conditioners have been exceptional this year, said David Zimdars, Voluntary Action Center executive director.

"Thirty-four donors giving one to four used units, many buying or contributing to the purchase of new units, and some of our other donors have given twice so far this season with donations ranging from $5 to $1,500," he said.

Even so, donations aren't able to keep up with demand.

As of Thursday, the Voluntary Action Center had received a record number of requests—121—for air conditioners, Zimdars said.

Of those, the center had been filled 88, which also sets a record, he said.

Since the program started in 2002, it never had more than 45 seniors requesting air conditioners, said Lynette Newton, grant coordinator at the Voluntary Action Center.

"As long as I've been doing this, I've never seen the number like this," she said.

The Voluntary Action Center continues to place, receive and buy air conditioners as requests and donations come in, Zimdars said.

Twenty-two people remain on the waiting list to receive air conditioners, Newton said.

"I think we've seen the worst of it, but now we're getting requests from people who had an air conditioner, it's broken and they can't afford to replace it," she said.

Newton suspects the program has passed it's seasonal peak demand for air conditioners, but she believes there will be more requests.

Weather forecasters are predicting a warm August. "The Plains and Midwest will continue to suffer through hot, dry weather," said Todd chief meteorologist with Weather Services International, a part of The Weather Channel companies.

Last updated: 5:14 pm Tuesday, August 27, 2013

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