Tuesday, August 03, 1999

Federal aid buys cooling units

Enquirer Contributor

        HAMILTON — Jeffrey Diver doesn't expect the stacks of 20-inch box fans to stay locked in an office for long.

        Ever since word got out that Supports to Encourage Low-income Families Inc. (SELF) received federal money to buy and distribute fans and air conditioners, the non-profit agency's phone has been ringing continuously.

        "We took at least 300 calls in one week and we're still getting more,” said Mr. Diver, the organization's executive director.

        While the Tristate's heat wave has cooled a bit, demand for fans and air conditioners hasn't.

        Sixteen states and the District of Columbia shared $100 million in cooling assistance funds during the recent heat wave. Butler County's share of the $8.4 million allocated to Ohio by U.S. Department of Health and Human Services — and divided by the Ohio Department of Development — was $66,000, Mr. Diver said.

        Fans and air conditioners will be distributed to low-income families by appointment from SELF's offices in Hamilton, Middletown and Oxford, Mr. Diver said. The last time the federal government made such an allocation to Ohio was 1995.

        Raveena Shepherd said the three fans her family picked up Friday are allowing them to sleep nights. She and two of her three children have asthma or bronchitis.

        “It was horrible,” Mrs. Shepherd said. “My kids were having breathing problems and they were fixing to shut off my power. It's the first decent night's rest we've had in weeks.”

        Besides three box fans, Mrs. Shepherd said she was given money to keep her utilities from being turned off.

        Mr. Diver plans to distribute about 300 fans and 200 air conditioners to Butler County residents, although he and other workers had to scramble to locate them.

        “We called all over before Lowe's (Home Improvement Warehouse) said they could get us enough,” Mr. Diver said.

        A Lowe's truck is expected to arrive with air conditioners by the end of the week, said Joe Childers, assistant manager of the Hamilton store.

        “They go extremely fast once we get them in,” Mr. Childers said.

        This week's shipment is likely to be the last of the season because manufacturers aren't making any more units, Mr. Childers said.

        Air conditioners and most box fans have sold out at The Home Depot stores in Greater Cincinnati, said Terri Howard of the Groesbeck store. No more shipments are expected this year. Sears stores are not expecting any more shipments either, said Rosalind Bibbs, who works in the Eastgate store. Ms. Bibbs said her store still has a few combination cool/heat window units and some fans.

        Once Mr. Diver received the fans late last week, his staff began scheduling appointments with clients to pick them up. Fifty air conditioners will be delivered today and will be installed by volunteers from Local 648 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.


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