As heat kills dozens nationwide, churches step up to keep residents cool

Chris Simmons
Pastor Chris Simmons of Cornerstone Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas. |

As millions of Americans nationwide grapple with an unprecedented heatwave that has already been blamed for scores of deaths along the West Coast and in Canada, many churches have been stepping up to help keep at-risk residents in their community cool by serving as cooling centers and even giving away air conditioners.

In places like Idaho, First Presbyterian Church, Trinity Baptist Church and Venture Church are among several houses of worship serving as cooling stations. West Seattle Christian Church has also opened its gym to be used as a cooling center in Seattle for as long as needed.

The city saw more 100 degree weather than it has in 66 years over the weekend, The Center Square reported. Western Washington was under an excessive heat warning until Tuesday night, when temperatures were expected to fall back into the 90s.

For Cornerstone Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas, however, Pastor Chris Simmons has taken their cooling intervention further by providing community members in need with free air conditioning units for their homes.

Simmons wasn’t immediately available for an interview when his church was contacted by The Christian Post Wednesday, but he told WFAA that the church started their cooling ministry after getting scores of desperate calls and emails about the heat.

“I’m a former special needs teacher who is in need of help. I’m disabled since 2010," he read from a list of pleas for air conditioning units from at-risk community members.

He explained that an anonymous donor funded the air conditioning program about seven years ago after watching the news and learning that an elderly woman died because she didn’t have an air conditioner.

“He made it his mission to provide A/C units to families that are in need, to make sure they would not have to perish that way again,” Simmons said of the donor.

Martha Fleming also got help from the church after her air conditioning unit stopped working after she bought her house in North Texas last year.

"It was bad. I kind of spent a few nights over at my family’s house," Fleming told Fox4. Now she says, "It’s been heaven ever since. Yes, I mean, seriously, it has."

She further noted that: "No one should be without AC, if they just apply or make that phone call."

A message from the Cornerstone air conditioning hotline Wednesday said the church received 250 requests for air conditioning units on June 16, so they had to temporarily suspend the program until they have processed all the requests.

“You may call back around July 15th. We may be open again at that time, but we must catch up on the requests we’ve had,” a voicemail from the church said.

Simmons told Fox4 that they typically give away 150 air conditioning units annually but this year has been different. They are still hoping that they can meet the needs of the at-risk members of the church community.

“Over the seven years of doing it, we have never hit a max where he says enough is enough," Simmons said of the program’s benefactor.

Contact: Follow Leonardo Blair on Twitter: @leoblair Follow Leonardo Blair on Facebook: LeoBlairChristianPost

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