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Best Buy and Haier Donate $25,000 Worth of Air-Conditioners In An Effort To Help Prevent Heat-Related Deaths and Illnesses in the St. Louis Region.

St. Louis - August 12, 2003:: With St. Louis area temperatures predicted to be in the 90s later this week, Cool Down St. Louis, a regional not-for-profit cooling assistance charity and advocacy group providing air-conditioners and cooling grants for overdue electric bills announced today that its cooling efforts have been strengthened through the generous donations of Best Buy, Haier and CitiMortgage.

Best Buy stores and Haier America donated more than 80 brand new air-conditioners to the area's elderly, disabled, and families with small at-risk children to Cool Down St. Louis. The donation of these air-conditioners is the cooling charity's largest gift, with a value of $25,000.

"Best Buy Stores and Haier America have come to our rescue just in time," said the Reverend Earl E. Nance, Jr., chairman of the all-volunteer board of directors. "This has been a very tough summer for many needy people – high unemployment, high prescription bills and even during the summer higher gas bills for some and no air-conditioners. The emotional and physical stress can be overwhelming and deadly."

The more than 80 cooling units ranging from 5,000 to 18,000 BTUs were delivered in a Best Buy semi to STEP, Inc., in Overland, one of fourteen of Cool Down St. Louis' social service and community action agencies, covering about 18 counties in Missouri and Illinois and the City of St. Louis. The agencies qualify needy households requiring air-conditioners and assistance with their electric bills.

"Cool Down St. Louis does a great volunteer effort of neighbors helping neighbors," said Joe Matthews, general manager for Best Buy. "The St. Louis region can become a very hot and deadly place to live, especially for seniors and the disabled. Hopefully these air-conditioners will make a significant difference to the hundreds of needy people who receive them."

Joining Reverend Nance, Jr., Matthews and Vincent Cefalu, director of marketing for Haier America were U.S. Congressman William L. Clay, Jr., of Missouri's First Congressional District, George "Buzz" Westfall, St. Louis County Executive, Melanie DiLeo, vice president of community relations CitiMortgage and executive vice president of Cool Down St.Louis, James H. Buford, president of the Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis, Inc., Merline Anderson of STEP, Inc., and representatives from other Cool Down St. Louis networking agencies. In addition, numerous qualified needy individuals, were at the event to pick up a brand new air-conditioner.

"Cool Down St. Louis is a critical safety net and, unlike the winter months, there are very few private or government funds available for paying electric bills and purchasing air-conditioners," said Congressman Clay. "Cool Down St. Louis and its corporate sponsor Best Buy and CitiMortgage have accepted the clarion call of ensuring that many of our neighbors have a safe and healthy summer."

"It certainly is a great humanitarian effort by Best Buy, one of our St. Louis county corporate neighbors, to help out some of the bi-state area citizens who have had misfortunes and can't afford an air-conditioner," said St. Louis County Executive George Buzz Westfall.

During her presentation of $5,000 to Cool Down St. Louis for assistance with electric bills, Melanie DiLeo praised Best Buy for being compassionate and caring. "For many of our CitiMortgage employees moving to the St. Louis area, it is becoming a wonderful experience," said DiLeo. "There are cultural enrichment opportunities, wonderful and affordable housing stock, great hospitality, but the summer weather can be deadly hot."

Reverend Earl E. Nance, Jr., also announced that he is making a special appeal to Laclede Gas to consider releasing some of its charitable funds to help needy households who were hit with 50% increases on their natural gas bills starting in August.

"I am praying and urging in a non-adversarial way that Laclede begin to understand that these are tough times throughout the St. Louis region, people are hurting,"said Reverend Nance, Jr. "Laclede could give many elderly, and disabled neighbors a breather by releasing some of those Dollar-Help funds now, instead of waiting until November. The needy can't afford electricity plus high natural gas bills in the middle of summer."

Since June of this year, Cool Down St. Louis has received and distributed about 300 air-conditioners and so far this summer have given out more than $25,000 in utility assistance for electric bills. Since its inception three years ago, the charity has impacted more than 30,000 people during the summer. All administrative costs are underwritten by a 36 member, all-volunteer board of directors so that every dollar donated goes to help those in need.

Tax-deductible donations may be sent to: Cool Down St. Louis, c/o UMB Bank, P.O. Box 868, St. Louis, MO 63188. Elderly, disabled, and needy families with small at-risk children only, needing cooling assistance should call the Cool Down Resource Hotline at 314-241-7668. Cool Down will register all applicants and refer them to one of its social service and community action agencies in about 18 Missouri and Illinois counties and the City of St. Louis.

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