Derek Gamble, founder of Operation Summer Salvation and Clean Slate Reentry, is saving lives in the Midlands through his work with nonprofits.
Operation Summer Salvation is an effort to get 500 air conditioning units to the elderly and disabled. To qualify for the program, the person must have a household income below 125 percent of the federal poverty line, be at least 65 years old, disabled (and can provide proof that they are disabled), and do not have an air conditioning unit or has a unit or HVAC system that is non-functional.
Gamble’s efforts have crossed through all 46 of South Carolina’s counties -- including Kershaw County -- since 2016. He works with the United Way of Kershaw County, Kershaw County Council on Aging and the S.C. Lieutenant Governor’s Office to find those who need air conditioners. With some residents living in 90-100 degree heat, Gamble recognizes the fact that it’s important to their health to have a functional air conditioning. For the disabled and elderly, Gamble says, it can be tough to manage both their condition and the heat.
“We are having an explosion in our geriatric population. And many times, if it’s the difference between a person getting their medicine or either getting their air conditioner, many times they’re getting their medicine and just sit in the heat,” Gamble said.
Gamble’s other nonprofit, Clean Slate Reentry, is a four- to 12-month program providing housing and other services to help former inmates successfully reenter society. According to Gamble, he formed the nonprofit after spending time in prison himself and witnessing how bad the conditions were behind bars.
A study by the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics found high rates of recidivism among released prisoners. The study found that an estimated 68 percent of released prisoners were re-arrested within three years, 79 percent within six years, and 83 percent within nine years. Gamble believes in restorative justice to help get former inmates on the right track.
“Every former offender is still somebody’s son, uncle (or) father. These are still people and we have to try and reintegrate them into of society instead of shunning them off to the side, because all that does is cause a bigger issue that’s snowballing out of control,” Gamble said.
According to Gamble, he has seen a lot of positive change with his program and has helped people get jobs, go back to school and get certifications. He also partners his two organizations by using former inmates to install air conditioners.
To help Operation Summer Salvation, you can donate to its GoFundMe account at www.gofundme.com/summersalvation or contact Lowe’s in Sumter and tell them you wish to purchase an air conditioner for Derek Gamble. Operation Summer Salvation is a 501(c)(3) non-profit so purchases are tax deductible.