Here’s a feel-good story that polishes the images of both our industry as a whole and MACS member Red Dot in particular. Special thanks to Stephen Petit of SiefkesPetit Communications for submitting the story to us and a tip of the MACS hat to everyone involved in the project.
Helping people stay cool in equatorial Africa is a challenge. But for Wayne Schepers, it became part of a mission.
Wayne, owner of Thermo King Michigan in Grand Rapids, was in Accra, Ghana, on a Christian mission earlier this year when he met the director of a foster home for eight handicapped orphans. Their car was a 1997 Land Rover Defender, bought from police surplus, with an air conditioner that had given up years before.
He returned to Grand Rapids with a parts list for his local Land Rover dealer. “Just to get the A/C running was going to take $5,000,” Wayne says. “And then it’s still an old air conditioner. I figured, let’s put a new one on the roof.”
He wanted something rugged and lightweight given the Defender’s thin metal roof and the city’s jarring roads. “I was talking to Jeff Engel, my Red Dot rep, about the work we were doing in Ghana and he suggested that maybe Red Dot would donate a unit,” Wayne says. “And so they did.”
Red Dot specializes in heavy-duty vehicle markets, and the roof-mounted R-9777 is designed specifically for off-highway equipment cabs and heavy trucks. It’s a high-performance unit, providing 25,000 Btu of cooling and a 355 CFM airflow. The unit weighs just 65 pounds.
However, the unit almost didn’t make it. Wayne had to check it as oversized luggage, and when the box arrived in Accra after transfers in Chicago and Washington, D.C., he breathed a sigh of relief.
But a customs agent stopped him short. “First she said there would be duty on the unit and that it would be expensive. Then she wasn’t sure I could even bring it into the country. I would have to buy something locally,” he says. “She met with one supervisor, then another, and I’m thinking, I’ve come all this way…”
When the agent returned, “She looked at me and said, ‘Just go.’ She waved me through.”
Returning to the girls’ home, Wayne chose to reinforce the Defender’s roof with metal bows he had cut from an old trailer in the U.S. He had packed them into a golf bag for the trip over. That done, he installed the new A/C unit himself.
“It’s going to hold up great,” he explains. “No one makes a more reliable and easy-to-service rooftop system. I did a good evacuation to make sure the system was airtight.”
“I forgot to bring a couple of relays so I had to go into the city to find some,” Wayne says. “It’s very crowded and the businesses are in huts. I was told to go down to an intersection, go back five huts, and I would find a guy with relays. Sure enough, there he was, in a back room at a desk with a jar of used relays. They were just regular car relays, but they worked.”
The foster program is thankful for how things worked out.
“Accra is a tropical climate and it’s anywhere from 95 F to 105 F with 95% humidity,” says Wayne. “The traffic is just awful. To be able—in these conditions—to have air conditioning is a big, big improvement in their lives. They’re so grateful.”