The Woodward News

Local News

August 14, 2012

Group donates 20 AC units to DHS

Woodward, Okla. — Thanks to a recent donation from the Oklahoma Association of Justice (OAJ), 20 area homes may soon feel some much-needed relief from the heat.

On Monday, the Oklahoma Association of Justice presented the local Department of Human Services office with 20 air conditioners.

Linda Semmel, county director for DHS, said the AC units will be distributed to the DHS clients who are deemed most in need within the local office's 3-county service area of Woodward, Harper and Ellis counties.

Semmel said the staff from her office's Adult Protective Services and Family Support Services programs are currently compiling a list of elderly clients and low-income clients who need assistance.

"We will then prioritize them to determine who has the highest-priority need and then distribute the air conditioners accordingly," she said.

Semmel said the air conditioner donation will help satisfy a need that otherwise would go unmet.

"There really are not funds available to assist with any needs other than food and medications," she said.  "But we all know how big a role heating and cooling play in someone's ability to maintain their health.  This summer alone, we've had several people hospitalized because of the heat."

And while "most of us take it for granted," Semmel said that for many elderly and low-income families, air conditioning is "what's termed a 'comfort of life.'"

"For many of the elderly, they have to choose whether they're going to get their medications, or food or keep their electricity on, and that's not even for air conditioning, but for basic things like their lights," she said.

Since some of those who may receive the donated air conditioners may be facing decisions like that, Semmel said DHS will try to help them through other programs to get assistance with paying their utility bills.

Fortunately, she said after examining the 1800 BTU Frigidaire AC units, that "it looks like they won't be too big of a drain on utilities since so many of our clients are on such tight budgets."

She said the AC units' manual turn knobs instead of digital displays, their 110 hookups and smaller size, which should fit into even apartment sized windows, means that "for the population we'll be giving them to, they're perfect."

The presentation of the air conditioners was arranged by Duke Halley, a Woodward attorney and OAJ board member.

He explained that Monday's presentation to the Woodward County DHS was just part of a larger statewide program, in which more than 250 AC units will be placed in homes across the state.

When asked what prompted the OAJ to donate the air conditioners, Halley said, "because we're good guys."

A press release explains that it was over $45,000 in donations from attorneys who are members of the Oklahoma Association of Justice that paid for the air conditioners.

"We try to pick various organizations that meet different needs to help each year," Halley said of the OAJ's commitment to giving back to the community.

"Last year we donated $60,000 worth of turkeys at Thanksgiving to distribute throughout the state and a couple of years ago, when we had a really bad winter, we donated I don't know how many coats," he said.

Since it's "been miserable the past 2 summers" and the heat only seems to get worse, Halley said OAJ decided to try to do what it could to offer some relief to those who need it most.  Thus the decision to donate air conditioners to Oklahoma families in need through the help of the Department of Human Services.

Semmel said she is hoping to have the air conditioners distributed as soon as possible, so that the families receiving them can have a way to beat the heat.

Halley thanked Tom Hunter, owner of Modern Appliance, for selling the AC units to the OAJ "at cost."

Semmel also thanked Hunter for offering to store the units in his warehouse until they were ready to be distributed.

"Just happy to help," Hunter said in response.

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