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Phoenix woman gets air conditioning for first time in 18 years

Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton, City Councilmember Thelda Williams, and Air Conditioning Contractors of America-Arizona CEO Antoine Coffer are among those shown with homeowner Carol Simpson (center). (KTAR Photo/Bob McClay)

PHOENIX -- Workers were busy installing a new air conditioner in a west Phoenix neighborhood on Friday.

The 86-year-old woman who received the unit been sweating out the Arizona summers inside her home for nearly two decades because she last used her air conditioning in 1995, the year she retired.

Carol Simpson retired her husband were set to live on his income and her Social Security but then things took a turn for the worse.

"His company folded the day after I retired," she said. "That's when we decided to put in swamp coolers."

The couple turned off the air conditioning and went with swamp coolers to save money. Simpson said that they continued using just the swamp cooler because that's what her husband wanted. She said he was the head of the household and she followed his lead.

They bought the home near 35th avenue and Dunlap in 1961. Carol's husband died two years ago, and she continued to swelter in the house. The original air conditioning unit -- which no longer worked -- remained on the roof until Friday.

"Project Cool Aid is a community-based program designed to service seniors, the disabled and low-income adults in Maricopa County," said Antoine Coffer, CEO of Air Conditioning Contractors of Arizona.

The program has been going on for 10 years. This year, the group decided to team with United Cerebral Palsy of Central Arizona to offer select Maricopa County homeowners a free air conditioning repair or replacement.

The group worked with six companies to have the new unit shipped in from Dallas and installed in Simpson's home free-of-charge. The installation would have normally cost $10,000.

Carol is thankful she'll have cool air in her house. She held back tears as she said, "It's so wonderful to think that people care so much about an old lady."

She plans to enjoy the air conditioning for a long time because she intends to still be living in her home when she turns 100.

It was Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton who learned of Simpson's plight and suggested that she be considered for the program. He grew up just two blocks from Simpson's home.

Stanton later learned from Simpson that both he and Simpson's daughter had attended Manzanita Elementary School and Cortez High School together. He suggested once the house cools down, he and Simpson could get together inside and have a beer to celebrate the new A/C.

About the Author

Years with the company: I started on January 2, 2006.

Education: I was born in San Antonio, Texas, but we moved to Phoenix when I was one-year-old in 1957. I grew up here and graduated from Alhambra High School and attended Phoenix College.

Family: I am married to my wife Rene', who is a librarian in the Washington school district. During free time, I may be found playing basketball in the driveway with my son, Devin. He's also keeping me busy with school, Little League, and playing in chess tournaments around the Valley.

Favorite food: Lots of favorite food, but our favorite restaurant is Fajitas.

Favorite spot in Arizona: The Little America Hotel in Flagstaff.

Favorite news memory: We have to go back to October 15, 1979. I was a country music air personality at KROP Radio in Brawley, California, when we had a 6.7 earthquake. Thankfully, there were no deaths and only minor injuries, but the entire community was pretty freaked out and listening to the station on their transistor radios. I would not want to go through an earthquake again, but it sure was a great night to work in radio and see how it can make a difference in people's lives.

First job: Working as a stringer for 'The Arizona Republic' at high school football games. My first real job was flipping burgers at the old Sandy's Hamburgers at 51st Avenue and Indian School Road. My first radio job was as announcer at KALJ radio in Yuma in 1977.

First concert: Doug Oldham gospel concert in the 1970s at the old East High School in Phoenix.

Favorite sports team: Phoenix Roadrunners minor league hockey. My dad took me to a game when I was in grade school, and I was hooked. I wanted to be a radio hockey play-by-play man. I used to take my cassette recorder and sit up in the rafters of the Coliseum and do play-by-play. It was great later in life to also take my son to Roadrunners games. Too bad the team just folded, I'll miss them. (Going to the Coyotes is fun, but they're not "my" team.)

Outside interests: My family and I are active in our church - Northern Hills Community Church in Phoenix. We enjoy going to movies, sporting events, and like to vacation at the Beach Cottages in the Pacific Beach area of San Diego. And I love to play catch, basketball, football with my son.


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