Thursday 2 February 2023
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Turn Up the Humor: Laugh with Combat Comedians so Seniors Can Stay Cool

Patti Singer

Since 2016, a volunteer group has raised money to get fans to seniors with no other way to cool off. The Fan Club partnered with Lifespan, which distributes the fans from Wolk Cafe in the Sibley Building. Provided photo

Update: The Fan Club, a volunteer organization that supplies fans to low-income seniors in the city and towns who lack a cooling device in their homes, has run out of fans and funds after a week of hot, sticky weather.

In one week in mid-July, the Fan Club distributed 500 fans.

“We’re out of fans and out of funds at the moment,” said Maria Friske, founder of the Fan Club. “We need to replenish to continue to help people over the summer.”

The Fan Club partners with Lifespan of Greater Rochester, and Friske is making a plea for emergency donations through the Lifespan website, www. Donors can earmark the donation for fans: When asked to review the donation, go to “add special instructions to the seller”, expand the box and type “FAN CLUB FUND.”

Getting window fans to sweltering seniors can connect them to other services to improve their health.

“I have to believe that somebody in need of a fan may have other unmet needs,” said Julie Murawski, director of development for Lifespan of Greater Rochester.

For the fourth summer, Lifespan is distributing fans collected through the Fan Club, volunteers organized by Irondequoit resident Maria Friske initially to help residents of senior living facilities.

The Fan Club has expanded to provide box fans to low income seniors throughout the Monroe County who are living on their own in houses or apartments. This summer, emphasis is on low-income seniors living in the city.

Anyone age 55 or older, or a person who has a disability, and does not have air conditioning at home can qualify for a fan. Call (585) 244-8400 ext. 104 for more information.

Once approved, seniors can pick up a fan at Lifespan, 1900 S. Clinton Ave. But residents, particularly those in the city, will be encouraged to pick up a fan at Lifespan’s Wolk Cafe at the Sibley Building. The cafe has breakfast for a donation and lunch for $4, but seniors can enroll in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and learn about nonmedical services that Lifespan offers to older adults and their caregivers.

“They can attend programs, meet new people and learn about services they might not know about,” Murawski said. “We’re hoping they won’t just pick up a fan, they’ll come back and access the other programs and make friends.”

The Fan Club also expanded its fundraising and is partnering with Combat Comedians in a benefit at 6 p.m. July 24 at Comedy at the Carlson. Combat Comedians uses humor to help veterans overcome challenges such as PTSD. Tickets ( are $20, and each ticket buys a fan for a senior.

The Fan Club began in 2016 after a chance encounter between Friske and a neighbor who lived in a senior facility. Friske posted on Facebook that the man and others in the facility didn’t have fans. Friends responded and more than three dozen fans were distributed within a couple of weeks.

Since then, more than 500 fans have been given to seniors who live without air conditioning or a fan.

“I never thought this would become so big from the initial post,” Friske said. “The initial post was, I can’t believe this is happening, I’m going to try to get some fans. And then it took off to the moon.”

The Fan Club partnered with Lifespan from the inception. It also works with Meals on Wheels to deliver fans to seniors who do not drive and have no one who can pick up a fan for them.

“Every year, we try to get better and better,” Friske said.

Even with Facebook posts, the Fan Club had pretty much been contained to people who knew Friske or others who were involved. Partnering with Combat Comedians brings the Fan Club to a new level.

“Since the beginning, there have been bigger forces at play that have put everything together. I’m honored to help with the stewardship, but I feel like I’m only a very small part of what is happening here. I really think I have to go with the flow, and something much bigger than me is going on here.”

This story was updated to to reflect eligibility requirements.