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Martinsville, Virginia 24115
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Agencies can help seniors fight heat
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Gloria Roberts, program coordinator at Southern Area Agency on Aging, stacks fans that are available for area seniors who are seeking some respite from the heat.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

By ELIZA WINSTON - Bulletin Staff Writer

Seniors suffering from the summer heat can seek relief through local agencies.

The Southern Area Agency on Aging (SAAA) can provide free fans to seniors, and air-conditioning units may be available through the Henry-Martinsville Social Services department.

Gloria Roberts, programs coordinator at SAAA, said the agency distributes fans to seniors who are in need and call to request one.

Roberts said she believes SAAA is the only agency in the area that distributes free fans to seniors during the summer months. She added that the agency's coverage area includes Martinsville, Henry County, Patrick County, Franklin County, Pittsylvania County and Danville.

The recent high temperatures have increased demand for fans, but the agency also is working with less funding this year, said Roberts. The funds come from the Virginia Department on Aging and Dominion Power Co., she said.

This year, only 32 fans could be ordered, each costing $39.97, and about 20 of them have been distributed, she said. Normally, the agency can buy up to 50 fans at $39.97 each, she said.

To see if they qualify for a fan, seniors older than 60 should call Roberts at SAAA at 632-6442 in the Martinsville and Henry County area, and 1-800-468-4571 in Danville, Pittsylvania County, Franklin County or Patrick County.

The SAAA offices at 204 Cleveland Ave., Martinsville, are open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays. Those who want to make tax-deductible donations to SAAA so it can buy and distribute more fans also should contact the agency.

SAAA is a private, nonprofit organization that provides services that promote independence and quality of life for older adults, according to its website,

Many residents may be able to receive air-conditioning units through the Henry-Martinsville Social Services department. Lisa Thompson, benefit programs manager at that agency, said it provides air-conditioning units or helps pay electric bills for households that qualify.

To qualify, the household must contain at least one person who meets the state definition of a vulnerable person, Thompson said. A vulnerable person is defined as someone age 60 or older, a child under 6 years old or someone who has been declared disabled by the Social Security Administration, she said.

There also are income guidelines based on household size, Thompson said. For example, she said a one-person household earning up to $1,174 per month, a two-person household earning up to $1,579 per month, a three-person family earning up to $1,984 or a four-person household earning up to $2,389 per month would qualify for the program.

To be eligible for an air-conditioning unit, a resident must not have any type of air conditioner, including a window unit, in the home, said Thompson. She said the program is primarily "for an emergency situation where you have nothing at all" to air-condition a home.

To qualify for help paying an electric bill, she said the household must have some type of cooling equipment. The maximum amount the agency can pay on an electric bill is $100, even if the bill is much higher, she added.

Those who want an air-conditioning unit should apply as soon as possible, Thompson said. Although there is no limit to how many air conditioners can be distributed, they are purchased through a limited amount of state funding that could be depleted before the program ends Aug. 15, she said.

Residents can pick up an application at the agency, or they can call and ask that one be mailed to them. Once the application is approved, social services employees process the request and a voucher is sent to a local business. The air conditioner then can be picked up or delivered and installed by the company, said Thompson.

She added that there also are some available funds to help fix central air conditioning, but those funds cannot be used to repair air-conditioning units.

Thompson added that the agency has been busy with requests this summer due to the heat.

Although the program is funded by the state, those who want to make a donation to the Social Services department's emergency fund may contact the main office at 656-4300.


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