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The S.O.S. Project,  (Saving Our Seniors) Begins Its Summer Save the Lives of Seniors and the Disabled

Before Ongoing Deadly Hot Weather Arrives in the St. Louis Region

Charity is experiencing A Tremendous Lull In Donations of All Kinds

St. Louis County -- Cool Down St. Louis, a regional, all-volunteer, not-for-profit energy assistance and education charity covering about 17 MO/ILL counties, including the City of St. Louis and the area Vatterott College, headquartered in St. Louis County, on Friday begin a comprehensive partnership to save the lives of area seniors, the disabled and small sick infants in low-income homes. Last year the charity collected more than 600 new or slightly used air-conditioners.  But the demand this summer has been more for financial utility assistance.

"We realize that the public is struggling with mortgage or rent payments, and the escalating costs of food, utilities,” said Reverend E. Nance, Jr. chair emeritus.  “We just hope they realize that there are always less fortunate people than themselves.” Nance noted that with current consistent moderate summer temperatures people are not thinking about the potentials of heat-related deaths and illnesses. Thursday's high temperatures will hopefully help people to focus on the dramatic needs.

Cool Down St. Louis, an all-volunteer effort, where 100% of all tax-deductible donations go towards servicing the poor also announced that it is also experiencing a tremendous lull this summer in terms of the donation of air-conditioners and money.

“The Vatterott offer comes at a significant time for us,” Chairwoman Melanie DiLeo. “These are very challenging times for most of us -- let’s face it, it’s even tougher times for those on fixed incomes -- who maybe in desperate need of staying cool.”

Vatterott College has agreed have all area campuses accept brand new donated and slightly used air-conditioners as drop-off sites. The three sites include North County, Sunset Hills and St. Charles, Monday through Thursday from 7:30 a.m. until 9:30 p.m. through August 31. The slightly used units will be examined by trained HVAC personnel and they are urging the public to make sure that the units are no more than two years old. The public may call 314-843-4200 for locations, or log-on to cooldownstlouis.org for drop-off locations.

Vatterott College also made a $5,000 donation today which will help purchase some new air-conditioners, and provided use of funds for energy assistance grants for utility bill payments.  The grants will help avoid utility disconnections for area seniors, disabled people and needy households with small sick infant children.

“These three months are the most challenging in terms of making sure that the most vulnerable are safe and cool,” said Pamela Bell, president and CEO, Vatterott College. “We encourage our associates and area neighbors surrounding our three St. Louis region campuses to drop-off an air-conditioner, which may prove life-saving to some frail senior or disabled person.”

The "Cool Down SOS Project' officially begins on Friday, and goes through the end of September, 2009.

The Cool Down St. Louis officials challenged other area corporations and the general public to give: Cool Down St. Louis, c/o UMB Bank, P.O. Box 868, St. Louis, MO 63188 or by using a credit card at www.cooldownstlouis.org.

Cool Down St. Louis officials believe that so far the region has dodged severe, deadly, hot weather. “Yet, it is critical to develop programs to further engage the public,” said Dr. James Knight, vice chair, Cool Down St. Louis. “So, far this summer, we’ve been luckier than most regions. Many parts of the country are still struggling and suffering with hot temperatures. Hot weather taxes our physically being.”

Cool Down St. Louis officials also encouraged seniors and the disabled to continue to keep their air-conditioners on, if they have them. The charity stressed that in cooperation with AmerenUE, if customers attempt to make payment arrangements on their summer electric bills, or if they qualify and receive a Cool Down grant, the utility company must be notified in advance, and will attempt not to disconnect their services.

The three Vatterott College campus drop-off sites are: NorthPark, 8580, Evans Ave, Berkeley, MO, 314.264.1000; Sunset Hills, 12970 Maurer Industrial Dr., St. Louis, MO, 314.843.4200; and St. Charles County - O’Fallon, 927 E. Terra Lane, O'Fallon, MO, 636.978.7488.

The brand new and slightly used units will be distributed throughout the St. Louis region, based on qualification. Seniors, the disabled and needy households with small sick children, can call the automated Cool Down St. Louis Resource Hotline at 314-241-7668.

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