As heat bears down, nonprofits help to hydrate those in need

During an excessive heat warning, the Salvation Army sets up heat-relief and water-distribution stations across the Valley. This station in Mesa is one of 15 such stations, which includes two mobile units. (Photo by Nick Serpa/Cronkite News)

PHOENIX – Temperatures have soared above average for early June, and the National Weather Service has issued excessive heat warnings for parts of central Arizona.

Local nonprofits are helping to combat the scorching conditions by providing water and air-conditioning to those in need.

The Salvation Army’s Red Shield Survival Squad has set up hydrations stations in Phoenix and neighboring cities. The stations are available from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on days when the weather service issues excessive heat warnings.

The Salvation Army has 13 locations, in addition to two mobile units that target areas with high volumes of homeless people.

An estimated 50,000 water bottles sit in a United Food Bank distribution facility in Mesa. The water was donated by Walmart and Heggs Auto Group. (Photo by Nick Serpa/Cronkite News)

The number of homeless people not in shelters has increased by 27 percent in the past year, according to an April Cronkite News article citing preliminary numbers from the Maricopa Association of Governments.

Scott Johnson, spokesman for the Salvation Army’s Southwest division, said the Red Shield Survival Squad served more than 11,000 people last summer, its first year of operation. The agency is seeking donations of 16.9-ounce water bottles.

In Mesa, the city kicked off its 12th-annual Mesa Hydration Donation Campaign as part of the Heat Relief Network, which is coordinated by the Maricopa Association of Goverments.

Chandler Kleese, an Eagle Scout who volunteered at the event, said it’s important because there are “people every year who are dehydrated and end up dying because of it, because of the lack of water that they don’t have.”

Dave Richins, CEO of United Food Bank, which hosted the kickoff event, said about 50,000 bottles of water were donated on Monday alone, with the help of matching donations from Walmart and Heggs Auto Group.

“As you know, food and water donations are down in the summertime, and so this really helps us support that effort,” said Rustyn Sherer, board chair of the United Food Bank.

The Mesa campaign will accept donations through Sept. 14.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified the spokesman for the Salvation Army’s Southwest division. His name is Scott Johnson. The story also incorrectly listed the entity that coordinates the Heat Relief Network. It is the Maricopa Association of Governments. The story has been updated to reflect the correct information. Clients who used earlier versions are asked to run the correction that can be found here.

Cronkite News reporter Nicole Hernandez contributed to this article.

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