The mercury is rising, but volunteers at the Salvation Army aren't sweating it.
Temperatures exploded past the century mark Friday. So the Salvation Army on Sugarloaf Parkway, as well as other locations in metro Atlanta, served cooling stations to families, seniors and anyone else who needed a place to relax and chill out.
“If you need a place to cool off, get a cold drink, we want you to come in to the Salvation Army and share your coolness with us!” said Lillian Harding, communications manager for the organization.
Volunteers like Virginia Hitson of Lawrenceville also gave out free fans to those who needed them.
“When it’s hot, we give cool. When it’s cool we give hot,” said Hitson in her Peruvian accent. She explains that in the winter they give out blankets and in the summer, fans and a place too cool off.
Charles Houghton, of Duluth, came to the center to escape the 100-plus degree heat and pick up a fan. The 60-year-old disabled man does have air conditioning at his home but says it’s not enough on a day like today. “So a fan, even the smallest fan, set next to my chair is a big help,” said Houghton.
The social Houghton said he also came out to meet new people. He sat at a table sipping ice water and chatting with Cheryl Hulsey, 59, of Norcross.
Hulsey said she is trying to stay indoors and avoid the heat, but came down to the Salvation Army to also get a free box fan. She has air conditioning in her home as well, but will use the fan to keep her electric costs down. “[The air conditioning] is not enough and it costs so much to run it when it’s this hot,” said Hulsey. “We keep it at like 78, and the fan, I’ll keep it blowing on me.”
The only qualification to get a free box fan? “You have to be hot!” said Harding. “If you don’t have air conditioning, especially our elderly, who may not have air conditioned homes. We want to make sure they come in and they’re able to get a fan today.”
Lawrenceville was the third stop of the day for the Salvation Army’s Major Todd Hawks, the new Commander for the organization’s Metro Atlanta Area. “I spoke to a lady this morning, she said that her air conditioning had broken a few weeks ago, and here we are passing out box fans,” said Hawks. “This is a simple way to help our neighbors during this heat.”
The 500 fans given out in Lawrenceville, Decatur and Atlanta were the gift of an anonymous donor said Hawks. “Two weeks ago, we had a shipment of fans. They [the donor] realized that the heat was on its way and they called us and said ‘we’d like to make another donation. We’d like to purchase more fans.’” The donor then made a cash donation and the Salvation Army was able to go out to Home Depot to purchase them immediately and hand them out today.
And it was just in time.
“I do appreciate the Salvation Army for doing this,” said Hulsey. “It’s a wonderful thing they’re doing and I can’t tell you how much I appreciate it.”
The cooling center will be open until 5pm Friday and the free fans given out until they are all gone.
Hawks said he would make a decision later Friday whether to open the cooling centers again on Saturday and Sunday.
Other cooling centers and fan giveaway sites are Ray and Joan Kroc Center Community Center, 967 Dewey Street SW, Atlanta, GA 30310 and The Salvation Army Peachcrest, 3500 Sherrydale Lane, Decatur, GA 30032.
For additional sites and information, visit the Salvation Army’s website.