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Hundreds turn out for The Salvation Army's Community Cool Off

September 16, 2009 - The Salvation Army

Wal-Mart, Sam's Club and The Salvation Army partnered for today's Community Cool Off, which benefited hundreds of area residents.

Several blocks down the street at 7:00 a.m. this morning dozens of vehicles were already lined up at The Salvation Army’s Irvington Corp Boys & Girls Clubs Community Center located at 4516 Irvington Blvd. in Houston’s near north side. They were there to receive assistance from our city’s scorching heat from The Salvation Army, Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club.

Together these three organizations put together a region-wide Community Cool Off event, today, at six of The Salvation Army’s community centers in Houston, Pasadena, and Conroe to distribute cases of water, fans and other items to needy families in the Greater Houston region. Irvington was the only location distributing fans and water to the community and at one point during the morning the line of waiting vehicles for the drive by distribution at that location stretched more than seven blocks along Irvington Blvd.

As community members pulled up in their vehicles Wal-Mart, Sam’s Club and Salvation Army volunteers placed a case of water and a fan into their vehicles.

“We really needed this help…this summer has been so hot and expensive that we haven’t even been able to purchase any additional fans or air conditioners for our house,” said one recipient of these items at Irvington. “I’m a single mother and my kids and I just try to stay cool however we can.”

Throughout the morning at each of the six sites the response from the community was the same. Some reported bills as high as $300 a month, being unemployed because of the economy, and even having to sit outside of their houses during the midday hours to avoid the heat inside their homes.

“In Houston this is a unique event for The Salvation Army because not a lot of our other Area Command Centers throughout the United States suffer from the heat and humidity that we do. At a time when our donations are low and the need in our community is increasing it is a blessing to be able to put something like this together,” said Major Chris Flanagan, Area Commander for The Salvation Army Greater Houston Area Command. “We are very grateful to Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club for their generous donation…and we hope that other corporations will follow in their example.”

Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club donated over 1,000 cases of water, some 1,500 fans and 50 air conditioning units to The Salvation Army in response to the record heat reported by media outlets in the Greater Houston region. The Army in turn distributed 1,000 cases of the water and 1,000 fans to community residents today. The remaining fans and air conditioners will be distributed by the nonprofit organization’s social services department to qualified applicants with a high-need and considered to be in a high-risk situation.

One such family was the Garza family in Houston’s East End. This elderly couple has been married for over 64 years and until today only had one single window unit air conditioner in their bedroom.

To beat the heat, the couple would sit outside on their porch during the midday hours or walk to local community centers where they could sit in a cool place.

Today, however, Wal-Mart’s regional general manager, Ron Acosta and The Salvation Army’s Major Flanagan personally delivered and installed a new air conditioning unit at the couple’s residence. The Salvation Army also agreed to pay the couple’s August and September light bills to offset the cost of the new air conditioner unit.

“Because we couldn’t afford to buy another air conditioner my husband and I would eat here in this dining room in the heat,” said 80 year-old Mrs. Garza. “Now we won’t have to do that anymore. We are so happy about this donation…especially because my husband’s health has deteriorated over the years…he is now 88 years old.”

For their part, Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club reported much satisfaction with the smiles and appreciation from community members they received during the distribution.

“Giving back is a big part of the Wal-Mart philosophy because we want people to know that we are part of this community,” said Acosta. “Texas is hot…and we wanted to do our part to help cool off some of our neighbors.”

The other five locations that distributed water only, today, were 1500 Austin Street, 2600 Aldine Westfield Road, 5757 Ranchester Drive, 304 Avenue E in Conroe, and 2732 Cherry Brook Lane in Pasadena. Individuals interested in soliciting a fan or air conditioner from The Salvation Army should contact the agency’s social services department at (713) 658-9205.

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