With triple-digit temperatures scorching North Texas for the past few weeks, organizations in Tarrant County continue efforts to keep people safe in the extreme weather.
Thousands of people rely on Meals on Wheels of Tarrant County every day, says the organization’s marketing and communications specialist Philip Gonzalez. Their volunteers play a large role not only in meal deliveries but being the eyes and ears of the community.
“If they see someone who doesn’t right, maybe they’re a little disoriented. In some cases, you can open the door and it feels like opening the oven,” Gonzalez said.
Gonzalez said in situations like that, volunteers are urged to contact Meals on Wheels. From there, the organization can assist. With the record-breaking heat, he said they are in the process of receiving a grant from Tarrant County to get more air conditioning units into homes.
The grant is worth about $180,000 and could serve up to 180 people. It is expected to be approved Tuesday at the Tarrant County Commissioner’s Court meeting.
“Some of them, we may be able to purchase units that provide cooling and heating,” he said. “For the fall and winters, because you almost run into the same exact thing.”
Data released this week by the Tarrant County Medical Examiner’s Office showed 10 people have died in Tarrant County from hyperthermia, or overheating, since May. Five of the cases involved elderly residents without any air conditioners.
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In one case, the AC was turned off.
“Those are really the most tragic,” said Leah King, CEO of the United Way of Tarrant County. “When they have the cooling equipment but either for fear of increasing their expenses with the electric bill, or just not thinking to turn the unit on.”
Earlier this summer, the United Way of Tarrant County launched its “Beat The Heat” campaign seeking new and gently used fans, as well as small air conditioning units. King said to date, they collected nearly 300 units that were distributed to community partners to install into homes that need them.
“Any of us can experience hyperthermia, and just by looking out for our neighbors and our family members, we can do even more to ensure that fewer people to succumb to something like hyperthermia,” she said.
The organization’s campaign lasts through Sept. 22, though King said it may be extended if there is demand.