Operation Summer Salvation seeks to fill every home it can with cool air to save lives

SUMTER COUNTY, SC (WIS) - Imagine living in a home without air conditioning during the summer while temperatures are only going up.

This is a reality every year for some South Carolina residents, but one group looks to change that.

The Clean Slate Reentry program started a project called Operation Summer Salvation to install AC units for the elderly and those who are disabled who've lived without a working AC unit.

Some of the volunteers are ex-offenders who are not only working to rehabilitate themselves but work to give back to those in need.

"We have a very hot and humid climate here in SC and we're trying to do this in order to cut down on the heat-related illnesses and deaths," Derek Gamble, Executive Director of Clean Slate Reentry Program, said.

The program started in 2016 with Sumter, Lee, Clarendon, Williamsburg, and Darlington Counties. Now it has expanded statewide.

The program is also serves as a means to rehabilitate former criminal offenders, to aid them in getting jobs and integrate them back into the community.

"This angle of restorative justice is giving them the opportunity to help back in the communities that they once offended in," Gamble said.

David Johnson, a volunteer who served a five-year sentence said: "I just want to fix what I helped destroy."

Beverly Fenton, who lives in Sumter County, says her outside cooling unit went out in early April.

"The only thing I had to keep me warm in those 30 degrees temperatures was a floor space heater," Fenton said.

After receiving one of the AC units, she said that her "prayers have been answered."

"Our 2018 goal is to have at least 500 AC units donated to this campaign." Gamble said. "We plan to expand the services statewide by offering at least 10 AC units in our top 42 counties and 20 AC units in our last 4 counties based on household median income."

They need about $60,000 to achieve the goal.

If you'd like to help, units can be purchased at Simpson's Hardware locations at the discounted rate of $98 and picked up by approved parties of Operation Summer Salvation for delivery and installation to eligible recipients. You can also visit their Facebook page for more information.

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