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Keeping Their Cool At St. Louis Senior Centers

Brett Blume
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7/11/12-Residents seeking refuge from the heat enjoy a rousing game of Bingo Wednesday at Five Star Senior Center in south St. Louis, one of several daytime cooling stations that are available to seniors who don't have air conditioning in their own homes or don't like to use the AC for financial reasons. Free meals and box fans were also delivered to the needy during the city's 9th Annual Summer Cool Down. (KMOX/Brett Blume)

7/11/12-Residents seeking refuge from the heat enjoy a rousing game of Bingo Wednesday at Five Star Senior Center in south St. Louis, one of several daytime cooling stations that are available to seniors who don’t have air conditioning in their own homes or don’t like to use the AC for financial reasons. Free meals and box fans were also delivered to the needy during the city’s 9th Annual Summer Cool Down. (KMOX/Brett Blume)

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ST. LOUIS (KMOX) -  Things are definitely better weather-wise now than they were last week, but highs in the 90′s can still be dangerous, especially for the elderly and home-bound.

The message of Wednesday’s 9th Annual Summer Cool Down was don’t suffer alone — find relief at one of eight senior centers across St. Louis that have been turned into cooling stations.

“It’s a good place to come to get out of that hothouse, these ovens we live in,” said Mike Howard, director of Five Star Senior Center at 2832 Arsenal. “Come into a senior center…there’s always activities going on.”

On this day a packed house was involved in a lively game of Bingo.

“Already?” echoed out time and again, every time someone yelled “Bingo!”.

While that was happening, city police officers were helping to deliver 350 meals of fresh-cooked hamburgers and hot dogs to shut-ins who are unable to make it to their nearest senior center.

Five Star officials deliver those meals on a daily basis, even though they’ve been forced to reduce their service by one meal per month by budget restraints.

Organizers of the Summer Cool Down, sponsored by Aramark Uniform Service and Walgreens, offered to extend their luncheon and fill in the gap for July.

Donald, Five Star’s director, said the challenge is to get the word out so nobody has to suffer needlessly.

He was shocked and saddened to learn that one of the ten heat deaths recorded in the city during the recent stretch of 100 degree weather happened in the 3100 block of Nebraska — less than a block away from his center.

“It hurts that we’re this close and we were open,” Donald lamented. “I wish that we had known there was somebody there.”

But his efforts to spread the word have been hurt by those aforementioned budget cuts, which allow him less opportunity to advertise their services to the community-at-large.

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