Diane called our office because she didn’t have any cooling. She had hired a neighbor to do some work, but it still wasn’t providing any cool air. She said she couldn’t climb up on the roof herself, due to bad hips and old age, and even if she could she wouldn’t know what to look for. As a volunteer at CHRPA, my summers are filled with evaporative cooler repairs. After a few weeks, it all starts to feel a bit routine–climb on the roof, clean or replace a few parts, sweat–and voila, the client has cool air! Within minutes on the roof, Abi and I identified the problem–all of the parts had been installed incorrectly. It took us about 20 minutes to take it apart and put it back together. Immediately, the cooler jumped to life and Diane’s home had cool air. When we told Diane the good news, she teared up. With her voice shaking she explained that the temperatures inside her home had reached 100 degrees every afternoon for the past month. As I looked around her home, I saw only one small fan. I thought of the joy I have every day walking into my house after work and being met by a blast of cool air. I tried to imagine bearing triple degree heat without cooling. For Diane, having cool air isn’t just a convenient luxury—it isn’t just about comfort, it is about health and safety.
Our staff and volunteers repair about 500 coolers and replace close to 100 every summer. We do our best to leverage our funding, but can’t do all that work without the help of donors. With $400 we can repair 10 coolers and with $800 we can buy a new cooler for a neighbor in a vulnerable situation. Some days at CHRPA can be a tiring slog—there are days when you have already been on five roofs and with temperatures nearing 110, the last thing you want to do is climb up on one more roof. It is in those moments, I think of Diane, and remind myself that what is our routine job is another person’s miracle.