Just as a heatwave swept across the Pacific Northwest, the AC at the hotel where Interfaith Sanctuary houses our families, seniors, medically fragile and hospice guests broke down, creating stress and some genuine medical concerns for those living in the hotel rooms.
As the hotel installed the air conditioning system in the 1990s, the parts needed to fix the units were on backorder. In addition, the windows at the hotel were not outfitted to house window AC units. As a result, the rooms were hot, and members of our community came together on short notice to help keep guests calm and cool.
Interfaith Sanctuary’s hotel program manager Thomas suggested that we make DIY camping air conditioners. Someone generously brought us 60 plastic containers, and with the help of a flurry of donations that came in, we sourced nearly 60 miniature box fans. Albertsons was kind enough to give us 480 bags of ice, which the hotel management stored in their freezer for us. The Home Depot on Milwaukee Street in Boise donated several 90° PVC elbow pipes.
Thomas and Ritchie, our hotel shift supervisor, worked with Jonathan, a single father living in the hotel with his two boys, and another guest named Levi to assemble all 60 units. They cut two holes in the top of each plastic box, filled the boxes with ice, then fitted fans and PVC elbows into the cutouts to push the chilled air into each room.
Ritchie sent an update out to Interfaith Sanctuary staff in his daily report on the morning of June 25:
“Today was spent doing operation cool down. Once we got a system down it went pretty quick. We worked on the AC’s until midnight. Joel drove down and bought some hand tools to make it easier. Jonathan Fried said he has some power tools which would make it a little faster. He drove to Nampa and came back with his tools. Jonathan, his two boys and Levi all pitched in and helped. They went above and beyond. Can we hook up these guys with some gift cards or something? We got ten done, maybe more. All we need to do is cut out more holes in about ten lids and tape the fans on etc… Around 11:30 I started handing them out.“
In the meantime, staff dipped towels in water and froze them to distribute to guests, and an anonymous donor provided access to a local pool. Thanks to our donors, we purchased 12 portable AC units, which staff distributed to our most medically fragile guests. “The camping AC’s got the job done,” Thomas said. “It wasn’t the same as having central AC in a room, but it kept our guests from overheating in a situation where they would otherwise have not been able to keep cool,” he said.
We’re so proud of our staff, neighbors, and Interfaith Sanctuary guests jumping into action in our time of need!