Westmoreland Agency on Aging delivers 'summer service boxes'

| Sunday, July 6, 2014, 11:15 p.m.

More than 700 senior citizens in Westmoreland County received “Summer Service Boxes” complete with drinks, snacks and gadgets to stay cool and beat the summer heat.

The Westmoreland County Agency on Aging delivered the boxes last week.

The contents, chosen to help during power outages caused by emergencies such as tornadoes or severe storms, include battery-operated fans and flashlights, bottled water, ice packs, toilet paper, snacks and a banner seniors can hang in their windows to alert rescue teams that they need help.

“The response (from the seniors) was overwhelming,” said Cindy Service, supervisor of the agency's Options Care Management Program. “You'd think it was Christmas. Some people just can't believe that we would think of something like this.”

The agency received funding through the Pennsylvania Lottery to cover the cost of the Summer Service Boxes and other programs.

Though the agency serves more than 44,000 seniors in some capacity through myriad programs, the staff reached out to its 700 neediest clients for the Summer Service Boxes program. Most live alone and don't have adequate outside support, Service said.

The agency administrator, Ray DuCouer, explained that older people are more susceptible to health problems that result from overheating.

“Sometimes the body is less capable of regulating temperature when it's older,” DuCouer said. “They're more likely to suffer from hypothermia and hyperthermia.”

Service added that the group specifically chose the items in the box because ice packs and battery-operated fans can keep people cool, she said, while providing drinking water and Gatorade packets encourages hydration.

Though the agency gave the boxes only to senior citizens in the immediate area, it hopes to inspire people of all ages to stay prepared for summer disasters, Service said.

“We are hoping through this education that people will think of the same thing and do this for themselves,” Service said. “You never know when it's going to hit, but you really want to consider being prepared.”

Alicia McElhaney is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-6220 or amcelhaney@tribweb.com.

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