06/11/08 — Free fans will help keep seniors cool

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Free fans will help keep seniors cool

By Steve Herring
Published in News on June 11, 2008 1:46 PM

WAGES employees were at Lowe's Home Improvement this morning to buy up to 20 fans that will be given away to the area's senior citizens in an effort to help them make the summer's early stifling heat a little more bearable.

The fans will be given away through the state's Operation Fan/Heat Relief program, but rather than continue to wait on state funding, WAGES officials decided to go ahead and purchase the fans with local dollars and reimburse the agency when those state monies arrive.

Locally, the Wayne County Services on Aging also participates in the program.

To apply for a fan call Services on Aging social worker Nancy Gendreau at 731-1591 or WAGES at 734-1178.

"We have been told we will receive the check (from the state) this week," said Eryn McAuliffe, Wayne County Services on Aging director.

The funding comes at a time when an early heat wave has been baking the state for almost a week with temperatures hovering around 100 degrees. Forecasters are calling for temperatures to moderate through the rest of the workweek. But even then, they are expected to be above normal, ranging from the upper 80's to the low 90's.

Brownie Doss, head of the WAGES nutrition program for senior citizens, said that so far she has received only two requests for fans. Services on Aging has nine persons on its waiting list, including one for an air conditioner that was prescribed by a doctor, Ms. McAuliffe said.

Ms. Doss said she also had received requests from several younger persons, but she referred them to another agency.

Persons must be 60 years or older and a customer of Progress Energy to qualify for a fan. Progress Energy is one of the companies that provides funding for the project.

However, both Ms. Doss and Ms. McAuliffe said their respective agencies try to find ways to help senior citizens who are not Progress Energy customers.

Ms. McAuliffe said her agency accepts cash donations as well as donations of fans and air conditioners. The agency gave out 21 fans last year.

"They go very quickly," Ms. McAuliffe said.

To make a donation, call Ms. Gendreau at 731-1591.

"Donations are greatly appreciated," Ms. McAuliffe said.

"Generally they (the state) tell us not to give fans to the people who have received them before, or to persons who have air conditioners," she said.

Ms. Doss said she keeps a list of names of prior fan recipients.

"If they say the fan is broken or there is a problem with it then we look at it," she said.

The same discretion applies to persons who have air conditioners.

"Even if they have them (air conditioners) they don't turn them on because it hurts their arthritis -- they can't stand the real cold air," she said. "They just want something to move the air.

"Sometimes it is broken, and they don't have the money to have it fixed."

The project is managed through the Division of Aging and Adult Services in the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services.

The 17 area agency on aging offices across the state work with service providers to operate the program locally. Operation Fan/Heat Relief runs through September. Last summer, 5,601 fans and 27 air conditioners were distributed through the program.

The fans for this summer are purchased through donations from Dominion North Carolina Power ($5,000), Duke Energy Foundation ($40,000), Progress Energy Foundation, Inc. ($20,000), and Valassis Giving Committee ($500). Many counties also accept private donations from individuals or civic groups to purchase additional fans.

For more information or to apply for the Operation Fan/Heat Relief program, visit the Division of Aging and Adult Services website at www.ncdhhs.gov/aging or contact a local senior center or local aging office.