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Cities help supply indoor comfort and safety

​Helping residents stay warm during the winter, cool during the summer and safe from air hazards is not usually on a town employee’s list of duties.

But less fortunate residents often need help. So cities and towns step up to assist them, in some cases helping charitable residents provide assistance to those who are struggling.

In the last several months, the City of Clinton has partnered with United Ministries to give residents the ability to donate money to the less fortunate through their utility bill.

So far, nearly 40 utility customers are contributing a total of $145 per month as part of the Clinton Community Cares program, said Joey Meadors, director of administrative services for the City of Clinton. The United Ministries then distributes the money to residents in need, using a careful process of selecting recipients. Someone who has received the assistance more than once, for instance, might be assigned a financial literacy class.

"That’s why we went to them," said Meadors of the city’s decision to involve United Ministries. "We didn’t want to be picking which of our customers that we help."

He said Clinton, like other South Carolina communities, is still trying to recover from the mill closures.

"We’ve got a lot of people that need help," said Meadors. "There’s always a need here."

A simpler fix can be found in Batesburg-Leesville, where the town and police department have a cooling fan program, in which officials distribute fans to those in need.

Besides comfort against the summertime heat, the town also promotes indoor safety to those in need.

Batesburg-Leesville has been donating smoke alarms since at least 2013 when the town received a grant from FM Global, a commercial industrial insurance provider. Batesburg-Leesville has also kept the program going through a donation from Columbia Farms/House of Raeford and Wal-Mart.

Jay Hendrix, Batesburg-Leesville fire chief, said the town is currently partnering with the American Red Cross, which is providing thousands of smoke alarms across the state. The department’s fundraising efforts have also helped.

In 2015, the town teamed up with the Jeffrey Lee Williams Foundation and Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation to install carbon monoxide detectors to protect residents from the lethal, odorless gas. And in the spring of that year, town officials conducted a door-to-door smoke and carbon monoxide alarm blitz, which resulted in the installation of 133 carbon monoxide alarms and more than 300 smoke alarms.

"We have discussed but have not set a date for another blitz," said Hendrix, adding that officials have spoken with Wal-Mart about acquiring more detectors. 

"As for target zones, we identified two low-income areas for the 2015 blitz and have targeted other low-income areas," said Hendrix. "However, the program is open to everyone, and if they call or stop by the station, we will go out and install them free of charge."