Cool Down St. Louis Halts its Washington Avenue Emergency Hat Fundraisers
Helping Missouri and Illinois Elderly and Disabled Stay Cool This Summer
- Saturday, July 7 is Last Day -
Cool Down St. Louis has decided to halt its series of Emergency Summer Hat Festivals, after this Saturday, July 7, (10:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m.) at 1641 Washington Avenue in downtown St. Louis due to a maze of detours and construction.
The board of directors of the cooling relief program voted to halt the efforts because in the past three weekends, it has been almost virtually impossible to gain a clear access to the McGowan Building, at 1641 Washington Avenue. Since the board's decision, the City of St. Louis is providing temporary access this Saturday, July 7 by way of 18th Street and St. Charles Street, east two blocks to the free CPI parking lot, and at St. Charles and 14th Street two blocks west to the free parking lot. Cool Down officials believe that after this Saturday and as the Washington Avenue construction phases move forward, access alternatives to this part of Washington Avenue will be almost impossible.
For the past eight weeks, Cool Down St. Louis has had volunteers serving as celebrity sales clerks, distributing a choice of brand-new hats and caps to the public in exchange for small donations. This Saturday, Cool Down St. Louis officials will have available brand-new, brand-name summer and winter women's and men's hats and caps, some valued at more than $100.00 in exchange for only a $10 or $20 donation.
"The City of St. Louis has been very helpful and caring about our attempt to eliminate heat-related deaths and illnesses in the St. Louis region, unfortunately their Washington Avenue construction efforts have severely hampered our current fundraising efforts," said founder and president Gentry W. Trotter. "We have received calls from individuals seeking assistance with $500 and $1,000 or more electric bills, and that's devastating, because many of the elderly and disabled just got over a miserable winter, being taken to the cleaners by some area utilities."
Trotter noted that in the last four weeks hat and cap donations have fallen by 50 to 70 percent. While the board of directors voted to halt the Washington Avenue event, the organization is seeking a liquidator, or a corporation to buy the hats at a discount for their company picnic, or seek another location outside of the downtown St. Louis.
Kevin McGowan, a Cool Down St. Louis board member donated the McGowan building at 1641 Washington Avenue, which included 5,000 square feet of space and electricity. "This has been a neighborhood effort to keep us going here on Washington Avenue," said Trotter. "Our neighbors,
including local policemen and even postal workers appreciate our efforts of helping others less fortunate. We will miss that spirit of cooperation and the feeling of accomplishment with those who came by and made donations."
On the lighter side, Trotter, who also served as the celebrity store manager, noted that men have been the most difficult customers, probably due to the fact that there have been thousands of hats and caps to select from. "It's been a humbling experience for many of us businesspeople who volunteer, because the public can be demanding, even for a charitable event, and the male shoppers' cannot make those quick decisions, and some have often tried on bunches of hats before deciding on one or none -- the whole experience has strengthened my patience and appreciation for the retail workers of America," Trotter concluded.
On Monday, July 23, the organization will be joined by United States Senator Jean Carnahan for a ceremony where they will distribute funds from their summer hat festival hats to at least eight Missouri and Illinois community action and social service agencies. The group was hoping to raise about $50,000 from its summer hat festivals. However, it will unveil the final summer hat fundraising amount on July 23. The organization also cites the media for its ongoing support of both Heat-Up St. Louis and Cool Down St. Louis
Tax-deductible donations also may be sent to Cool Down St. Louis, c/o Truman Bank, P.O. Box 9330, St. Louis, MO 63117.