United Way hopes to help needy chill this summer

Staff photo: Tony Bullocks Danielle Swopes, left,  and Roy Gallegos add a  bucket to a shopping  cart for making an air conditioner.

Staff photo: Tony Bullocks
Danielle Swopes, left, and Roy Gallegos add a bucket to a shopping cart for making an air conditioner.

By Vanessa Kahin


A five-gallon plastic bucket, insulating foam, PVC pipe and a small fan can be combined to help someone chill out this summer.

These are the materials that are used to make a chiller — or a homemade air conditioning unit. The United Way of Eastern New Mexico is coordinating the making of these units to give them away to those who do not have air conditioning.

UW Executive Director Erinn Burch said this is the first time the organization is making the units. In the past, they’ve simply given box fans away.

The idea for the homemade units came from Facebook, Burch said.

“I just thought it would be a much better solution than just giving away a box fan,” Burch said. “A fan can only do so much. These (AC units) give more relief.”
Burch said the units are for those who have no air conditioning at all. Those who the UW typically helps with heat relief include the elderly, the homebound and those who are vulnerable in some way.

The UW will be hosting two AC unit-making events in one day. Members of the community are welcome to attend either event — one in Portales and the other, in Clovis — and help make a unit or two.

Burch said those wanting to volunteer must call UW and register.

The community may also help by making a donation for the cause. The cost of materials for one unit is $25; but any amount would be welcome, Burch said.

The UW will then deliver the units to those in need. Referrals can be made by those who know someone who does not have an air conditioner and needs relief from the heat. Or, Burch said, those who could use an AC unit may put in a request for one.

“If they’re working with a home health provider, they can tell the caseworker that they would like to be referred,” Burch said. All referrals are verified, she said.

The local UW also helps those who need assistance, for example, with paying bills or getting food. The UW maintains a database of local programs and can field questions such as where to apply for food stamps, or where to get drug rehabilitation.

In the winter, the UW purchases heaters to be given away, Burch said.

She added that she hoped the AC units are helpful to those suffering as temperatures rise.

“If you can keep someone’s home from making them sick, that’s good all the way around,” Burch said. “That’s our goal, to keep people healthy during the summer heat. It can be oppressive.”

Fast facts
What: The United Way of Eastern New Mexico air conditioner unit- making events.
When: June 21
Where: In Clovis, at the Matt 25 Hope Center, 1200 N. Thornton St. In Portales, the event is at City Park.
When: From 9 a.m.-11 a.m. in Clovis. From 9 a.m.-2 p.m. in Portales.
Information: 2-1-1.