Untold thousands of people have already been exposed to dangerous levels of lead contamination and the danger continues. But the Wesleyan response to the Flint water emergency (see stories here and here) is already making a difference. Many volunteers are needed! (See below)
Government and major relief agencies’ responses were initially bypassing people who could not produce identification, people in “unsafe” neighborhoods and many other elderly and poor people.
Wesleyans organized the Flint Grassroots Initiative to develop a “system around the system” that would touch thousands of poor, undocumented, homeless, elderly, and others who were marginalized.
In part, due to the FGI initiative, major players appear to have “raised their game” and deserve credit for doing more. Red Cross dropped their requirement for ID to receive water rations. Health and Human Services has released a comprehensive proposal that has similarities to the points in the Flint Grassroots Initiative plan. Wesleyans had generously shared their strategic plan with the administration.
But the outcry for help in the city remains overwhelming. It looks like at least a 15-18 month initial effort to resolve the water crisis. But health issues, real estate issues, and trust issues will continue long after that.
- Water Supply: We’ve been receiving water from corporations, churches, and individuals. It looks like we could be okay until April. However, we are very concerned because suppliers are starting to slow down and cut back. Once this crisis is no longer getting news coverage, the interest will wane and our supplies will greatly diminish. We might have to start buying more of it at some point. Right now we have a source that will sell us water for $90 per pallet (1 pallet = 60 cases of water).
- Water Distribution: We did our first weekly large scale event on February 13. We had over 125 volunteers. We distributed 2,760 cases of bottled water. Some was distributed at stations. We also delivered water door-to-door to apartment complexes (i.e. elderly people) and to houses. At one 14-story apartment building, volunteers hauled 800 cases of water up. The elevator could only take 30 cases at a time. We are receiving two truckloads of water from CNN, which they want held until distribution on March 5, the day before the Democratic presidential debate that will be held in Flint on March 6. We will take any help to keep the water flowing!
- Health Care: Jody Eidnes (Evangelical Covenant Church) is coordinating this component for the Initiative. Our portable health clinic is on site and are doing blood screening for lead levels and much more. Jody states, “We have people from Genesee Community Health Center partnering with us for the health portion. They will have at least one coach on hand to help with getting people health care beyond the blood lead screening. This health center takes people regardless of insurance or ability to pay. They have primary care, oral health care, substance abuse care, and mental health care. They have folks they call coaches who help their clients navigate the world of health care from figuring out insurance, to transportation to appointments, and even getting an ID. The health center has committed to being with us every second and fourth Saturday of each month.” Praise the Lord!
- Food Distribution: Many Saturdays we are providing free fruits and vegetables for families in need. We’ve discovered that these are critically important in combatting lead poisoning–especially in children. We also provide nutrition information.
- Distribution Sites: We are taking steps to establish a second major site. The second site will be more conducive to serving undocumented immigrants. We are starting to get more offers from churches to send volunteer teams, etc. If that continues, we might be able to open additional sites and extend our reach into other neighborhoods.
- Volunteers & Teams: We welcome all inquiries from churches about sending volunteers! The answer is always, “Yes! We need volunteers!” People should contact Flint First Wesleyan Church (Pastor Scott Grigonis) at 810.742.8450 if they are interested in helping us. We can give them info on housing, either at a hotel, a church, or at Wesleyan Woods Campground ($12/night and we have 60 bunks).
- Media exposure: Pastor Robert (Joy Tabernacle) has become the “go-to” guy for news organizations seeking a voice representing the grassroots response to the Flint crisis! This outstanding pastor of this independent inner city church has been a key member of our team. He’s done several interviews with television and radio stations. We plan to have a press conference to publicly unveil the Flint Grassroots Initiative (FGI)–its purpose and activities–following our first ecumenical service on March 6.
- Connections: A key partner for us here is the United Way. We’ve had some positive contacts with the Red Cross. We’ve invited Health and Human Services leaders to come to Flint and see what we are doing. They are interested. A director from the office of U. S. Rep. Dan Kildee has been in contact and shown interest as well.
- Joint Service: We’re scheduled to have our first “ecumenical” service with Joy Tabernacle on March 6 at 5:00 P.M. Wesleyans from our Flint area churches, as well as from around the district, will be attending this service. Pastor Robert and I will tag-team the speaking assignment for this service.
Please consider donating generous assistance to the front line through the Wesleyan Emergency Relief Fund.