Cool air fills Rock Hill homes thanks to donors

Lacy Massey beams a smile after picking up a couple meals from Bob and Mary Ann Thomas as Lake Wylie Lutheran Church makes their weekly meal deliveries to families in the Blackmon Road area.
Lacy Massey beams a smile after picking up a couple meals from Bob and Mary Ann Thomas as Lake Wylie Lutheran Church makes their weekly meal deliveries to families in the Blackmon Road area. Special to The Herald

Helen Whitlock’s home feels a lot cooler than it did a month ago.

Until recently, Whitlock and her family – including six young grandchildren – had to make do without any air conditioning in their mobile home on Blackmon Road, even as the temperatures rose close to triple digits this summer.

So, when church groups come down this dirt road off of Albright Road on Sunday afternoons to deliver food donations to its needy residents, she would stock up on cold water bottles to supplement the fan her family needed to keep cool. At the time, Whitlock told the Herald she had tried to get a donated, window-mounted unit for her home but had given up because she encountered so much red tape.

Since then, kind souls have provided her with not just one air conditioner but three, each hand-delivered and installed free of charge.

Now, when riders come to deliver their Sunday meals, she can invite them into a cool interior.

“It feels so good,” she said.

A couple of those who helped bring her household some relief were the two who came to deliver their sandwiches. Bob and Mary Ann Thomas of Lake Wylie Lutheran Church have spent the last 20 years trying to help out residents on Blackmon, a poor area south of Rock Hill that lacks most utility services.

When he read about the conditions in which Whitlock and her grandchildren, who range in age from 1 to 8, were living, Bob Thomas decided he had to help.

“I don’t see how she can manage,” Thomas said. “The conditions (on Blackmon Road) are not good. Some people have said they’re like Third World conditions, and I don’t think they’re far off.”

Thomas went to Walmart and bought two window units for Whitlock. A third was provided by Jim Burnette.

“When we saw the write-up in the paper, Richard English and I went out there and sat down with her and heard her story,” Burnette said.

Whitlock says the units have made life much more bearable for her family, allowing them to cool the mobile home’s main living area and both bedrooms. They’ve been especially helpful for her 6-year-old granddaughter’s asthma problems.

“She can breathe better, because it’s a lot less humid,” Whitlock said.

With Whitlock’s needs taken care of, Thomas also dropped off an air conditioning unit for Rosie Mae McClure, who shares a mobile home on the end of Joe Louis Boulevard with her son, daughter and two grandsons, ages 19 and 8. The unit was only installed a few weeks ago, and this Sunday was the first time she had a chance to enjoy it after spending a couple days in the hospital with a heart condition.

“I would be going somewhere else without this air conditioning,” she said.

Since the air conditioner was installed, the biggest problem for McClure has been competing with her grandsons over it. When the boys want to play video games, they might unplug it to keep from overloading the home’s electric box.

“I get on them because they want to cut it off,” McClure said.

At both homes, the residents said they were thankful that others were willing to help them find some relief from the summer temperatures.

“I thank God for the people who participated,” Whitlock said, adding that “Mr. Bob and Ms. Mary Ann are the backbone of this community here on Blackmon Road.”

For their part, the Thomases say they feel a responsibility to help others where they can.

“If you’re just sitting in the pew and not doing anything, you don’t get the message,” Bob Thomas said. “These are not chores, these are opportunities.”

Other opportunities to help will be coming up soon. Mary Ann Thomas is collecting children’s books to hand out to young people along with the meals prepared by the church, while Burnette said he wants to collect clothing and nonperishable food items for residents on the street. He hopes Whitlock will be able to help in those efforts.

“She knows the neighbors and who needs stuff,” Burnette said. “I know we can’t do everything, but we can do something.”

Donations to Lake Wylie Lutheran’s efforts can be made by calling 803-548-5489, while Burnette can be reached at 803-322-6866. One donor already has made a contribution to Lake Wylie Lutheran toward helping Blackmon residents in the future.

“Another lady called and was very empathetic, and asked if she could send a check,” Bob Thomas said. “She said, ‘would $1,000 help?’ ”

Bristow Marchant: 803-329-4062, @BristowatHome