COG Receives Award for "Operation Cool Down" Project

PRESS RELEASE: Dec. 28, 2019

MEDIA CONTACT: Chris McKinney (803-774-1384)

Santee-Lynches COG received a 2019 Aliceann Wohlbruck Innovation Award from the National Association of Development Organizations (NADO) for a regional project named “Operation Cool Down”.

SUMTER, SC – The National Association of Development Organizations (NADO) awarded Santee-Lynches Council of Governments a national award for their “Operation Cool Down” Project at the 2019 Annual Training Conference. The COG’s Area Agency on Aging (AAA) ) employs a “no wrong door” approach in collection of data in our region, meaning we take all calls regardless of if we can provide the service or not (turn no one away) and we log their information into our database. Through this approach we determined there was a significant and growing unmet need in the area of air conditioning units for the elderly and disabled population. After further investigation, we determined that a large group of people were at risk of serious health concerns due to inadequate or inoperable cooling units in their homes. Our agency realized the need was so great and beyond the scope of any one agency, so the only way to tackle it was through collaboration and partnership. This was the beginning of the endeavor to improve the quality of life for this vulnerable population.

The AAA partnered with two non-profits, Clean Slate Recovery Program and Wateree Community Actions, Inc. to initiate a plan of action to meet the needs of our elderly and disabled by providing wall air conditioning units or standard home HVAC units. Derek Gamble, Executive Director of Clean Slate Recovery Program (a reentry program for former inmates) took the lead on the project. Formerly incarcerated individuals were required to complete several training modules with the goal of helping to successfully transition back into society, while exposing them to meaningful work, helping others and service to the community. Veronica Robinson, Program Director for Wateree Community Actions Inc. provided the funding for HVAC units to individuals who met the income requirements of 150% Federal Poverty Level. She provided a maximum of $7,500 to purchase heating and cooling units. Additionally, the COG’s AAA identified individuals with the need within the region based on data previously collected. 

The joint vision was two-fold: 1) create communication between service agencies, which is often siloed and 2) create a streamlined application and referral process to bridge the gap between services and unmet needs of our vulnerable population. The three agencies worked together to initiate the conversations/meetings and worked through all potential roadblocks to find a way to “yes”.

NADO is a national network of 540 multi-jurisdictional regional planning and development organizations. Award-winning projects were highlighted at the annual conference in Reno, NV. The 2019 class of award recipients consists of 100 projects from 66 organizations spanning 24 states. The Aliceann Wohlbruck Impact Awards program is an opportunity each year for NADO to publicly recognize the
great work regional development organizations deliver to their local communities.

About Santee-Lynches Regional Council of Governments

Santee-Lynches Regional Council of Governments is a premier organization committed to optimizing our region’s unique strengths for a better tomorrow. Our mission is to deliberately enhance the quality of life and provide opportunities for the advancement of our region. Santee-Lynches serves the counties and cities of Clarendon, Kershaw, Lee and Sumter. To learn more, visit

Santee-Lynches COG is a member of the South Carolina Councils of Government (SC COGs). The SC COGs are a network of the 10 regional councils of governments working to positively affect quality of life and economic development in South Carolina. SC COGs serve as an extension of local and county governments to provide technical assistance, secure state and federal dollars to address critical issues, and advocate at a state and national level for economic and quality of life improvements for South Carolina. To learn more, visit or visit