The Salvation Army steps up to meet rising need prompted by nationwide heat wave

By: Brad Rowland

Across the Southeastern United States many face heat-related challenges, especially during the summer months. In 2022, record-high temperatures are occurring in various communities, causing challenges both physically and mentally. In response, The Salvation Army is deploying targeted efforts to “beat the heat” in the Southern Territory, tailoring service to local need and responding with flexibility and a passion for helping others. 

One prominent avenue for relief is the presence of cooling centers designated to allow individuals to simply escape the scalding-hot temperatures. The Salvation Army of Lynchburg, Virginia opened its doors as soon as temperatures reached 90 degrees this summer, with a daily dispersal of snacks and water followed by a dinner meal in the evening. Cooling centers are also present in Danville and Roanoke, Virginia, among other locations, and The Salvation Army is partnering with emergency medical services, likeminded agencies, and the city government in Wheeling, West Virginia to provide refuge in Ohio County. 

In Tulsa, Oklahoma, unseasonably high temperatures led to the launch of a 24-hour cooling center housed at The Salvation Army’s Center of Hope. This offering will be in place through at least September, with dozens of individuals in need finding comfort in the temperature environment. The Salvation Army is also partnering with local service providers in and around Oklahoma City, including participation in Home Energy Aid Month, aimed at raising funds for emergency utility assistance that will help families to pay skyrocketing energy costs. 

The Salvation Army of Paducah, Kentucky opened a pair of cooling centers in mid-June, utilizing the corps community center and its Southside Family Store location. Visitors can enjoy cool drinks, snacks and access to clean restrooms, as well as the opportunity to meet with professional caseworkers. A local “Beat the Heat” fan collection drive also generated meaningful traction in partnership with a television station in the area. 

“We need to bring that to light and help people get resources to help them,” said Lt. David Donegan, corps officer, who also noted that this is simply one step in The Salvation Army’s comprehensive plan to help low-income families and to address issues related to homelessness in the region. “We exist to fulfill that call to serve others, in His name, and so we are pleased to help.” 

Beyond the presence of cooling center locations, The Salvation Army is intentional about meeting need in any way possible, including several efforts to collect and disperse fans for in-home aid. The Salvation Army of Metro Atlanta engaged in a partnership with The Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta that led to the distribution of more than 1,500 fans in the region, and The Salvation Army of North Texas partnered with Reliant and Westlake Ace Hardware to provide bottled water and portable fans to many. 

Outreach persists as the summer months continue and need grows, with corps and service centers across the territory stepping up to help those facing challenges. The Salvation Army of Aiken, South Carolina is also a prime example, hosting individuals within its doors and taking to the streets to disperse water and other necessities via a designated mobile unit. 

Captain April Tiller, corps officer, views this ministry as vital and, with financial hardship striking many as the heat wave continues, The Salvation Army stands in the gap. 

“With the challenges we are seeing in every area of our economy, this is a wonderful way to show our community that we are here for them and understand that times are hard,” said Captain Tiller. “However, the simplest acts of kindness can make huge impacts towards the spiritual, mental, and physical vitality of someone’s life.”