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AC gift a breath of fresh air

LAWRENCEVILLE -- After heartless bandits left them out in the cold earlier this month, the 100-plus children who depend on the Lawrenceville Boys and Girls Club have finally gotten relief from the heat.

Sometime during the night between Aug. 8 and 9, thieves pilfered the seven air conditioning units outside of the organization's post on Stone Mountain Street, presumably selling the precious metals inside for a hefty profit.

With after-school programs just gearing up, that left the children to play in the sweltering summer heat, while Boys and Girls Club officials sweated the financial implications.

Enter Coolray Heating and Air and equipment partner Trane, who completed on-the-house installation of new systems at the club last week.

"It was just unfortunate," Coolray president Ken Haines said Monday. "We're very involved with the community, and frankly we were kind of heartbroken to hear about the kids ... The weather's been miserable."

When the theft was discovered, a flock of fans became the new decorations at the Lawrenceville Boys and Girls Club, as they tried to do "the best we can with what we have," senior executive director Rory Johnson said at the time.

Insurance would have covered replacement, Johnson said, but only after a $10,000 deductible -- which would have had to come out of funds meant to help with the facility's numerous programs.

Hearing about the unfortunate incident on the news, Coolray stepped up to help out the 20-year-old safe haven for local kids.

"If they would have paid someone to do it," Haines said, "it would have cost maybe $40,000."

Johnson was out of the office and could not be reached Monday, but said in recent weeks that the crime had shocked everyone in the community.

"(Parents) were amazed just as everyone else that somebody would actually do that to a youth facility, a facility that helps take care of the youth, empower the youth and instill in them to be good community citizens," he said.

"For somebody to do that, it had really just taken everybody aback a little bit."

Air conditioning thefts have become a popular trend in Gwinnett County and elsewhere this summer, with thieves making out with the copper and other resalable metals inside individual units. A wake of heat and confusion is left behind them.

Last week, Coolray, the naming sponsor of the Gwinnett Braves' Lawrenceville stadium, pitched in to make sure the Boys and Girls Club wasn't victimized any more than it already had been.

"For us practically, it wasn't that big of a deal," Haines said. "It was just kind of the right thing to do, they didn't have the money. So we felt compelled to do it."