That’s cool: Helping beat the heat

Aaron Polite (left) and Wendell Gilliard carry a window air conditioner into the house of Rosa Mae White in 2006 after she was featured in a Post and Courier article suffering in a home with no air conditioning. The unit was supplied by Operation Cool Breeze. (Alan Hawes/File)

Nobody needs to be told that it’s hot outside. Weather forecasts say it’s been feeling like 100 degrees, given both the temperature and humidity.

But for many people it’s hot inside, too, and that can be dangerous. Doctors advise people suffering from heat-related illnesses to lie down someplace cool. That’s good advice — unless there is no cool place available.

Rep. Wendell Gilliard, D-Charleston, tells how a young man in a wheelchair had been prescribed medications, but was unable to take them safely. He had been advised that the drugs could have adverse effects because his house was so hot. And senior citizens are particularly vulnerable to excessive heat.

That’s why Mr. Gilliard, after 15 years of providing air conditioners to people who need them to survive Lowcountry summers, is still at it. Since he founded Project Cool Breeze in 1999, he and his team of volunteers have given away between 450 and 500 air conditioning units each summer.

He is optimistic that this year will be no different, even though one of the program’s major sponsors isn’t participating. Mr. Gilliard is just trusting that other donations will make up the difference.

Already this year, Project Cool Breeze has distributed 220 air conditioning units, and the list of applicants only gets longer. Lately doctors have been asking for units for their vulnerable patients. Air conditioning isn’t just to make life more pleasant. It’s necessary for people’s health and well-being.

The program works closely with Lowe’s, which provides a nice discount to Cool Breeze and supplies volunteer teams to help deliver and install the units.

Mr. Gilliard’s efforts with Cool Breeze, as well as with a turkey giveaway program at Thanksgiving and another to aid veterans, earned him a commendation from President Barack Obama. But as high temperatures seem to be holding steady, it’s the air conditioners that are on his mind.

The heat should be on everyone’s mind. Old people, children and pets are especially susceptible to illness, or even death, when temperatures rise.

Gardeners should do their digging early in the morning or late in the day. Runners should be vigilant about heat stress. And, of course, no person or pet should be left in a parked car.

It’s too hot. But you know that.