A row of cars, including a sheriff patrol vehicle, pulled into the Stop Six neighborhood on a recent sunny morning. Kelly Biggs, a Tarrant County Sheriff’s Office deputy, unloaded a window air conditioning unit box with a bag of tools and headed for a resident’s house.
Biggs is the sheriff’s community-oriented policing and education deputy. He was there as part of an initiative that Fort Worth resident Darryl Washington started to help fellow Fort Worthians stay cool during the summer heat. Washington kicked off his annual tradition of installing air condition units for veterans and senior residents July 29 in Fort Worth.
Washington is a former boxer who grew up in the Stop Six neighborhood. At his peak, he was an amateur boxer who won the Golden Gloves in the 1980s.
“I never forget where I come from,” Washington said. “And I do not like to see our veterans and our senior citizens living under bridges, or with no air conditioning, or just not getting taken care of.”
Fort Worth resident Odell Jimison, 69, had been living with a broken AC in his bedroom for the past couple of years. But this year’s heat has been intolerable, and it prompted him to get in touch with Washington.
Temperatures have been reaching record highs over the past weeks, with a record high of 109 July 20 at the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport.
Jimison had suffered stroke and heart attack before, so he knew how dangerous the heat could be for him.
“The temperature has been reaching in the 100s, and I’m afraid for my life,” Jimison said. “I didn’t know if I was going to make it another day.”
Visit Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center, 5565 Truman Dr., to get more information on how to help.
But Washington’s mission is more than just keeping residents safe and cool. He’s on a mission to build a mutual understanding between the Black community and government officials. He started the program five years ago.
First responders, such as police, are often seen in a bad light in the Black communities, Washington said.
That’s why Washington asked the Tarrant County Sheriff’s Office, Fort Worth Police Department and the fire department to help with the installation of the AC units at residents’ places.
“When the kids see the first responders come into the neighborhood and see good things, that lets them know, ‘Hey, I may want to be a firefighter. I may want to be a police officer. I may want to be the sheriff,’” Washington said.
Biggs has been working with Washington on the AC unit installation for the past five years.
Throughout the years, the sheriff’s office has partnered with Washington to do other community events such as 3-on-3 basketball tournaments, Biggs said. But the AC unit initiative is what people really need in the summer, he said.
Biggs installed two AC units in two residents’ houses on July 29. Beads of sweat raced down his head. A layer of sweat coated his forearms, reflecting light through the window in the dim bedroom.
“I sweat all day long, but I have comfort to go to. They don’t,” Biggs said. “We’re providing them some kind of comfort, or at least a little break from the heat all day long.”
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