EllieAna Hale
Editorial Assistant

Summer is here and with that comes excruciating heat and air conditioning systems on blast. But what happens to those who are vulnerable to the heat and without the cold air that everyone needs in the summer?

Beginning in the summer of 2000, after the occurrence of 21 heat-related deaths in Kansas City, Project ElderCool, has taken on the issue of heat-related deaths among senior citizens and those with respiratory disabilities. The program, under the Bishop Sullivan Center located on 6435 E. Truman Rd., created a sustainable project that allows eligible seniors access to air conditioning units and is working to install them in homes.

“Project EdlerCool has been providing air condition window units to low-income seniors,” said Shiloh Foster, Bishop Sullivan Center Household Assistance Manager. “We are over 5,500 installations that have been done since the program started.”

Heat-related deaths among seniors are a rising issue in the Kansas City area due to the high temperatures and the lack of access to proper air conditioning units for low-income community members.

“It first started when we identified a need,” Foster said. “There had been several heat-related deaths in the news, so we came up with a solution to help. That first year we put up 400 air conditioners. Since then, the average ranged from 120 to 150 installed each year.”

Project EdlerCool is taking this issue and transforming a solution that involves providing free air conditioning systems, installing air conditioning window units in low-income households with no existing air conditioning, and creating a credit line for the electric bill increase from the usage of the systems.

“It’s very rewarding and fills my heart with joy knowing that we are able to help and make their lives a little less stressful and a little cooler for them over the summer,” Mckinzie Horsley, intern and senior at St. Marys College, said. “As the receptionist, I haAlthough I don’t get the chance to meet them in person, it is a very rewarding experience and humbling in the fact that I am helping in some small way.”

The following eligibility for the ElderCool program includes the information below according to the Bishop Sullivan website:
To be eligible, seniors must:

•Be 65 years or older
•Have no air conditioner in the home
•Live under 185% of the poverty guidelines
•Have not received an air conditioner from Bishop Sullivan Center within the past three years

To be eligible, those with a respiratory disability must:

•Receive disability due to a respiratory condition or have a disabling condition that is made worse by respiratory issues
•Have no air conditioner in the home
•Live under 185% of the poverty guidelines
•Have not received an air conditioner from Bishop Sullivan Center within the past three years

Those eligible can call (816) 231-0984 to apply over the phone.
Additionally, the Bishop Sullivan Center is accepting donations that will go toward the cost of the air conditioners, the installation and the establishment of credit systems.

“The biggest thing that the community can do is donate to the program,” Foster said. “We do pay for the cost of the air conditioners which has gone up this year, and then also because having an air conditioner run in the house causes the electric bill to go up, we also provide a credit for the electric account for the seniors that qualify.”

This influential program plans to keep aspiring for establishing community action in the fight against heat-related deaths.

“It literally saves lives and it has been for the last twenty years,” Foster said.