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Tuesday August 30, 2011 5:14 PM

Rockets Help Houston Beat The Heat

Rockets team up with Sheltering Arms to help Houstonians handle heat wave

Jason Friedman

HOUSTON - 24 straight days of sweltering temperatures surpassing 100 degrees. Oppressive humidity that makes a stint in a sauna seem like a cool, crisp autumn day in comparison.

It's been that sort of summer in Houston – a seemingly bottomless cauldron of heat, sweat and serious discomfort. For most of us that merely means eschewing the outdoors whenever possible in order to spend ample time bathing in the brisk breeze of the air conditioning.

But what of those without that option? Whose homes offer little to no respite from the summer swelter, instead simply serving up more of the same? For them – especially the children and elderly among them – the soaring temps and brutal conditions can literally become a matter of life and death. And when viewed through the harsh reality of that particular prism, it becomes easy to understand why Dora Fannon's eyes filled up with tears as she attempted to describe how much her brand new AC unit meant to her.

Fannon is a 65-year-old Houston resident who has spent the entire summer enduring the heat without the benefit of air conditioning in the home she shares with her sister. Five minutes inside the house in the dead of the afternoon is enough to make your body instinctively cry out for a cool breeze and a shower. Now imagine five months. That's what she and her sister have endured. But that ordeal is now over thanks to a joint effort from the Houston Rockets and Sheltering Arms Senior Services.

"The Rockets recognized a need and they reached out to (us)," said Lynne Cook, Executive Director of Sheltering Arms. "We work with many low-income families and those that are most vulnerable – elderly, disabled, families with children – that have a lot of needs with utilities and AC units. It was a perfect match; we were able to help them identity our clients who need them the most."

Fannon is the first beneficiary of a city-wide initiative that will see the Rockets and Sheltering Arms donate 100 air conditioners to be installed in the homes of elderly, disabled adults and single mothers with small children. Rockets CEO Tad Brown and Hall-of-Famer Clyde Drexler were on hand Tuesday afternoon to help install the first unit.

"It's the right thing to do," said Brown. "(Rockets owner Leslie) Alexander always challenges us as an organization, not only professionally but personally, to see how we can make the community better and how we can serve those in need, It's in our DNA as an organization to not only make a difference, but to make a difference during the times when it will make the most impact. This gives us a chance to bring some specific relief to what's really a life-threatening situation with the kind of heat we're dealing with in Houston."

The impact was obvious the second the first air conditioning unit was turned on. You could certainly feel the difference in Fannon's home – and you could see it, too. You just had to look in her eyes.

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