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Ameren, Samaritan Center begin annual air conditioner giveaway

Ameren, Samaritan Center begin annual air conditioner giveaway

June 8th, 2019 by Joe Gamm in Local News

Julie Smith/News Tribune Anquenette McDonald watches as a pallet of window unit air conditioners is lowered by Shane Boessen, second from left, and a heavy duty hand truck at The Samaritan Center Friday. Ameren Electric donated 50 to the local pantry as they have done for several years now. McDonald, whose home was damaged by the tornado, is currently unable to use her central air conditioning and spoke up to get one to help her granddaughter, who suffers from asthma, be able to breathe easier and sleep better.

Anquenette McDonald was the first to receive one of 50 window air conditioners donated by Ameren Missouri to the Samaritan Center on Friday.

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The home McDonald rents on Maple Street sustained some damage during the May 22 tornado that raked through part of Jefferson City.

Windows were broken.

The central air conditioner was ruined.

McDonald's landlord was able to make quick repairs so McDonald, her granddaughter and grandson could continue to live there safely, but air conditioning remains unavailable.

So she reached out to Samaritan Center, which serves as a food pantry and offers seasonal clothing, blankets and household items for members of the community. It provides free medical and dental services for people without Medicaid or other insurance.

Staff at the center let her know the appliances were arriving Friday morning.

"My granddaughter has asthma and allergies," McDonald said. "It's a blessing that will help my granddaughter."

The air conditioners are capable of cooling a 250-square-foot room. They are high-efficiency models, intended to save on electricity.

Every year, partnering with Cool Down Missouri, Ameren Missouri donates hundreds of window air conditioners throughout the state to help people cool down when the weather turns hot. The company donated 500 to the cause last year.

A partnership with Vatterott College, whose students collected new and gently-used air conditioners, allowed the company to distribute up to 100 more. But, citing restrictions that prevented the college from participating in federal financial aid programs, the college closed down in December.

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Because of that, Ameren Missouri increased its donations to 600 this year.

The bulk of the air conditioners are to be distributed in the St. Louis area. However, many are being given to residents in Cape Girardeau, Mexico, Moberly and other communities, according to Chip Webb, Ameren Missouri Central Division director.

"This is an opportunity for Ameren Missouri to give back to the community," Webb said. "We've done this for several years."

The air conditioners will go quickly, he said. The Samaritan Center does "a pretty good job of vetting those folks" who receive the appliances.

Marylyn DeFeo, founder of the Samaritan Center, said it doesn't take long for the organization to distribute the air conditioners. They only last about a month, she said.

"It's going to be getting humid," DeFeo said. "People with health issues cannot be in a house where they can't breathe."