FORT WORTH, Texas — Volunteers spent Friday morning unpackaging a gift for Robert Burks, who needed help beating the heat.
Burks is one of Fort Worth's U.S. veterans. He's usually hanging out at the Martin Luther King Center in Cowtown just to cool off. In the summer, Burks' home is like a oven.
"It gets so hot you can't stay in there. You got to have something," said Burks.
For years, the veteran lived through the summer without any air conditioning. Despite temperatures topping 100, Burks sits outside in the shade under a tree in his front yard, because inside feels even hotter.
"I don't sit in there. I have the fan on anyway. If I have to go in there, I go in and take care of some business or something, I go ahead and do what I need to do," he said.
Now, thanks to Darryl Washington and his volunteer team, veterans like Burks are getting free window air conditioning units.
Washington and other volunteers identify senior citizens who need help with keeping cool. This summer, they are focusing on some of the veterans in Fort Worth.
Washington says the MLK Center has served as a good place to connect with people. Workers and volunteers at the center share information about guests who could use assistance with social services in the area, even though that is not the main function of the center.
Washington started his giveaway program years ago, after learning about so many seniors suffering without any relief.
Washington is a former boxer turned community activist in the Fort Worth area. He comes from a huge family that looked out for each other, so naturally helping people is in his blood.
"It just made me think I wouldn't want anybody, like their grandmother, to go without air condition. That's why I just love doing it. That's why I do it," he said.
Washington's passion is unmatched, and people around him usually get involved to help him with his mission.
"When people do something bad, I do something good," Washington said. "It's sad, because I hate to see people suffering."
Washington says U.S. veteran Odell Jimison is one of those people. Jimison has been using a box fan during the summer months for the past two years at home to try stay cool.
After arranging a visit from Washington to receive a brand-new window A/C unit, Jimison had no idea he would end up seeing Tarrant County Sheriff Bill Waybourn at his house too. Jimison has shaken hands with the Waybourn before at other community events years ago, but he never thought Waybourn would ever be at his front door.
"I saw the sheriff come up, and for a second there I got a little nervous," Jimison said. "But he is a good man."
The sheriff showed up because Washington and his team recruit police, firefighters and sheriff department personnel to help with the installations. A Tarrant County deputy did a lot of the heavy lifting at Jimison's home, including carrying out Jimison's old window A/C unit that has not worked in about two years.
"That is one thing about Fort Worth and Tarrant County, we love our neighbors, and guys like Darryl Washington locates people who need help in this incredible heat," Sheriff Waybourn said. "This is the second installation that we have had the privilege to be part of today, to help things get a little cooler."
"I am going to do this until I can't do it anymore," said Washington.
Washington plans to recruit volunteers next week for another round of A/C unit giveaways. He is also looking for more donations and sponsors to help others in need during the long hot summer.