On Tuesday, Tarrant County commissioners unanimously approved a $180,000 grant agreement with Meals on Wheels of Tarrant County to provide air conditioners for vulnerable residents across the area. The funds will allow the organization to purchase and install air conditioners and AC and heater units in homes that need them.
Philip Gonzalez, a marketing and communications specialist with Meals on Wheels, said thousands of people rely on the organization's services every day. That high demand cannot be done without the help of volunteers who not only deliver meals but also serve as the eyes and ears of the community.
Recently, Gonzalez said a volunteer noticed a home they delivered to was warm. The organization was notified, and an AC unit was installed Tuesday.
“After all this time, without her [resident] being with one…she’s finally going to feel the effects of a nice cool, air conditioner blowing in the house,” Gonzalez said. “A lot of these people are going to be elderly, homebound, disabled. Some of them might be grandparents taking care of grandchildren. So, in that case, you have to keep cool.”
Gonzalez said he hopes the grant approved Tuesday will be able to help more residents as triple-digit temperatures continue to scorch North Texas. According to the Tarrant County Medical Examiner’s Office, at least 10 people have died from hyperthermia since May 1. Data shows most of the reported cases involved elderly people without AC.
“This has become a great issue and a great problem, as the heat continues to beat us to death in North Texas,” Precinct 1 commissioner Roy Brooks said Tuesday. “There are people dying in their homes because they don’t have air conditioners.”
Gonzalez said the heat has also taken a toll on Meals on Wheels’ volunteers. While the number of volunteers typically fluctuates during the summer months due to vacations and adjusted schedules, he said the heat has added to the challenges.
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They need more people to step up and help if they can.
“A lot of our volunteers are retired and the heat can get to anybody. The older you are, the more susceptible you are to heat-related illness,” he said.
As far as ensuring every resident in need of a working AC unit has one during extreme weather, Gonzalez said he is hopeful Tuesday is a step in the right direction.