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Red Cross Opens Cooling Stations To Help Beat Heat [VIDEO]

(Photo by Ramin Talaie/Getty Images)

Trying to beat the heat will be a game everybody plays this week. Doctors say young children and the elderly are the most at risk.

But in the midst of this dangerous heat is relief.

The Red Cross of Greater Grand Rapids opened two cooling stations Tuesday afternoon, while another group is installing free air conditioning units and delivering free fans to seniors who are eligible.

“We’re just encouraging people to be aware of their surroundings; aware of their own body temperature; [aware] of what they’re feeling, and be responsive to that,” says Chip Kragt, emergency services director for the Red Cross of Greater Grand Rapids.

Kragt, along with his emergency response staff, spent most of Tuesday morning answering phone calls from people saying they were desperate to find relief from the extreme heat, as well as preparing a plan on the outside chance he had to decide to open several “cooling stations” at various locations around West Michigan.

“Volunteers are in place; water is in our warehouse and all of our supplies are ready to go,” Kragt added. “We can open a shelter within two hours at any one of our locations across our five county area.”

Kragt made the call Tuesday afternoon to open two cooling stations at a pair of Kent County churches. One location is at Rockford Reformed Church (4890 11 Mile Rd.) while the other location is at Wesley Park United Methodist Church in Wyoming (1150 32nd St.).

Both locations say they plan to keep their doors open from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Wednesday through Friday this week.

“Turned out in the council meeting [Monday night], two or three members of the council said, ‘what are we doing?’”, said Bill Bode, administrator of Weslet Park United Methodist Church. “By a half hour later, they had a volunteer staff in place and water bottles being brought in.”

If senior citizens can’t make it to a cooling location, cooling relief can come to them – if they qualify.

“They have to be a resident of Kent County, and be 60 years old or older,” says Robert Barnes, president of Senior Neighbors in Grand Rapids.

Barnes says his staff has installed about a half dozen free air conditioning units in the past few days, and more are on the way.

“They [elderly who try to qualify] need to have a medical condition that makes it necessary for them to have an air conditioning unit available to keep them cool, and they will need a prescription from the doctor that will say that’s the case.”

Barnes added there income requirements, too.

“Single people must make less than $21,780 while married couples cannot make more than $27,200 per year.”

If you’re thinking of opening your doors to help people cool off this week, the Red Cross has one request.

“We ask that anybody who is opening themselves up, let the United Way 2-1-1 know and let the Red Cross know so we can be telling people who call us,” said Chip Kragt.

Any additional questions about getting relief from the heat, you’re encouraged to call the United Way’s 2-1-1 number and they will help you.

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