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Cambridge nonprofit gives away ACs to help residents beat the heat

As summer arrived early in New England over the weekend, a nonprofit in Boston handed out air conditioners and cooling kits packed with water, thermometers and adhesives meant to cool the skin.

The giveaway, held Sunday at St. Stephen's Episcopal Church in the South End, was the first in a series of events planned by Communities Responding to Extreme Weather of Cambridge to help area residents cope with extreme heat this spring and summer.

Reverend Vernon K. Walker, senior project manager with the group, says the purpose of Sunday's event was two-fold: Cooling down residents in the short-term, and educating them on the impacts of extreme heat and climate change in the long-term.

"It's not just about giving those resources out, but we also want to empower people with knowledge so that they will not underestimate the gravity of heat waves in extreme heat," Vernon said.

Vernon said the group is concerned that communities of color are likely to be disproportionately affected by the impact of climate change. For instance, he noted many urban residents live in "heat islands," which regularly experience hotter temperatures than those with less asphalt and more trees.

"For us, climate justice is racial justice," Vernon said. "We can't separate the two because we know that racial injustice, the people that are disproportionately affected by racial injustice are the same folks that are disproportionately affected by climate injustice."

Massachusetts General Hospital Dr. Melanie Haines was also there to talk to residents about how to stay safe in extreme heat.

Sunday's event was the first of three scheduled for this summer by Communities Responding to Extreme Weather. Others will be held next month in Dorchester and in July in Mattapan.


Correction: An earlier version of this post did not give the correct location of St. Stephen's Episcopal Church. It is located in the city's South End neighborhood. The post has been updated. We regret the error.

This article was originally published on May 23, 2022.

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Amanda Beland Twitter Producer/Director
Amanda Beland is a producer and director for Radio Boston. She also reports for the WBUR newsroom.

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