Heat-Up St. Louis and Cool Down St. Louis – A Voice for The Voicless
Heat-Up St. Louis (Cool Down St. Louis) was founded in June 2000, by nationally recognized public relations strategist and Emmy Award winner producer/director, Gentry W. Trotter, who also had worked for twenty-four years, as a public relations consultant for a Missouri investor natural gas company. Trotter was primarily responsible for community outreach and fundraising for the utility's check-off program. After raising millions of dollars for the utility sponsored energy assistance program, he along with several other community-minded volunteers began on a journey to encompass a regional approach. This included Illinois and other parts outside of the natural gas company's service area in Missouri, which now includes electricity, propane, and home-heating oil. Heat-Up St. Louis (Cool Down St. Louis) is currently the only all-volunteer, independent regional energy assistance, public education and advocacy charity of its kind in the United States. The charity also acts as a regional safety net when funding from the government and utility-charity programs falls short.
Trotter felt the marketplace also needed to engage the public with special event fundraising, (i.e. Hardee’s Rise ‘N Shine For Heat and Rams Gift of Warmth) and a regional independent voice with a strong advocacy position. He also felt that educating the public about energy efficiency, weatherization, rate increases, public advocacy for seniors and the disabled and ratepayer financial responsibility is critical for all utility ratepayers. Trotter had initially served as the volunteer president of the all-volunteer board of directors. He has since left the board and president’s post, and serves as the interim executive director.
There also needed to be public debates on utility rates, health, and safety issues, but also realizing that most Illinois and Missouri regulated utilities do have rights to maintain a level of safety, and health of their own operations. Both winter/summer charitable efforts also network with Ameren Missouri and Vatterott Colleges for air-conditioning distributions; as well as the City of St Louis, where it also manages their utility assistance operation throughout the year.
As part of Heat-Up St. Louis and Cool Down there needed to be a major effort to provide utility counsel, or direction for assistance, and referrals for various energy assistance programs through community initiatives. In the day, twenty or so area agencies attempted to publicly drown the media with tons of press releases and finding those in need. Heat-Up St. Louis (Cool Down St. Louis) eventually became that one-stop-advocacy voice. He has an automated hotline, and a website which enables potential clients to dialogue. Those referrals are then sent to their partnering agencies throughout Missouri and Illinois.
Heat-Up St. Louis’s first fundraising efforts was in December of 2000 with donated brand new hats and caps. The Winter Saturday and Summer Hat and Cap Festivals were held from December 2000 through September 2001. A retail space for the Washington Avenue location was donated by fellow board member Kevin McGowan. The retail space in the Central West End was donated by internationally known interactive television and entertainment mogul Edward J. "Ted" Koplar.
The current board membership is composed of 56 area civic, media, business, religious, and political leaders. This non-profit corporation helps the elderly, disabled and low-income families with small children in Missouri and Illinois with their energy bills throughout the year through the solicitation of small and large contributions from the public, private and governmental sectors. 100% of all donations go for helping the needy, as all administrative expenses are underwritten.
Heat-Up St. Louis operates Cool Down St. Louis its summer program and Help-Up USA for markets outside of the greater St. Louis market. All monies collected in a particular community stay there, except if a donor directs elsewhere. All donations are tax-deductible. The summer program, Cool Down St. Louis was established to provide air-conditioners and pay for electric bills for at-risk seniors, the disabled and small critically-ill children only. "The Be A Good Neighbor, and Check On Your Neighbors," a community outreach program which attempts to help save lives in the summer, was applauded by the Missouri Public Service Commission. This program also partners with the Fire Chiefs Association and the Clergy Coalition of Greater St Louis. United States President George W. Bush and other state and local politicians of the Democratic and Republican parties continue to praise the all-volunteer regional effort.
Since its inception more than 300,000 people have been impacted primarily in the City of St. Louis, St. Louis County, and the counties of St. Charles, Franklin, Jefferson, St. Francois, Ste. Genevieve, Iron, Washington, Warren, Lincoln and Butler in Missouri and Madison, St. Clair, Monroe, and Clinton in Illinois, including counties in the Cape, Paducah and Southern Illinois areas (during The Pasta House Co. Buy A Flame fundraiser) with their energy assistance needs previously. Area schools, and corporations like Citi’s Jean Day, BJC Health System, Ameren, CH2M HILL do have employee’s in-house fundraisers and donate annually to both causes. The charity has received more than $10.1 million in various forms of donations. More than 4,500 area Missouri and Illinois residents have volunteered since the inception of both efforts.