When the city of Flint, Michigan switched its water source in 2014, issues with the water quality became immediately apparent. But it wasn’t until recently that the problems with the water supply, corrosion of pipes and lead in the water became national news. Now, the water situation had turned into a crisis.
“Educators and students in Flint are doing the best that they can. Children and staff are only allowed to wash hands with the water from the faucets. Children have daily water in bottles. After school programs use hydration stations to fill cups and water bottles in the schools,” said Karen Christian, President of the United Teachers of Flint.
Times of crisis often bring people together, and the residents of Flint are no different. In the face of anger, frustration, fear and health concerns about lead poisoning – especially for children who are still developing and growing – people are banding together to fight for their rights and to help one another access clean water.
“It has been amazing to see the people come together and help each other out. There are times that members come home and see water already outside their house for them,” said Karen. “There are people in Flint who provide help every day to those that can’t get to the water distribution centers. The children have stepped up and help deliver water to people in the community.”
It’s not just people in Flint who are helping each other. As the crisis grows, more and more people want to help. “There have been so many groups from around the United States that have sent in money, water, clothes, school supplies…the amount of support that has come to us has been absolutely amazing,” said Karen.
And, NEA Healthy Futures is proud to be an organization that has been able to support residents of Flint through our partnership with Nestlé Waters. As an effort to ensure people have access to clean water, Nestlé sent a truck load of water jugs to Flint in April to assist residents with their bathing and cooking needs.
This donation and coordination could not have happened without the following Michigan Education Association (MEA) and NEA staff members: Bruce Jordan, Cheryll Conklin, Linda Bacon and Christopher Johnson. Bruce and his team organized over 100 volunteers to assist with unloading the truck(s), organizing the water, and distributing it.
“We had around 100 volunteers from various organizations (MEA included),” said Bruce Jordan, MEA UniServ Director. “There were teams that loaded up trucks and trailers, and went out into the community to distribute to those that could not physically come and pick up water. There was a steady line of cars and people that came to pick up water as well as get tested for lead poisoning etc.”
“All in all, [the donation] was well received and greatly appreciated.”
Bruce was able to easily distribute the water through the assistance of the Flint Grassroots Initiative – a group of churches that have partnered with various organizations to answer the need that Flint residents have as a result of the Flint Water Crisis. Because the Flint Grassroots Initiative has developed a strategic, comprehensive plan to meet the needs of victims of the crisis, it has attracted the attention of other partners who are joining in their efforts. Area churches, relief organizations, government agencies, unions and even businesses are finding the FGI to be an effective vehicle to harness resources and help people that are most in need of help.
“What was extremely helpful was that the distribution model was already established. All I had to do was tap into it,” said Bruce. “The Flint Grassroots Initiative had already established the vehicle to distribute water and items of need to a Flint area that has been hard hit by the water crisis.”
All Bruce had to do was contact Pastor Scott Grigonis of the Flint First Wesleyan Church to see if he could help offload the donation made by NEA Healthy Futures/Nestlé to the community of Flint using the Flint Grassroots Initiative. Then, volunteers helped make the distribution of the donation a reality.
While helping the residents of Flint, Bruce has observed two things: “First, the people of Flint are angry. They are angry that the elected officials in Flint as well as the elected government of the State of Michigan have failed the City of Flint and those that live and work there,” he said.
“Second, the people of Flint are extremely grateful. Every person that I have spoken to about the water crisis in Flint have expressed sincere relief that people and organizations such as Nestlé/NEA/MEA and others have stepped up to help and lend support during this time of real need,” said Bruce. “Teachers have come to the Flint MEA office to pick up water for their homes and water for their students and their stories are always of hope – hope that the support and aid continues until the crisis is truly over.”
For anyone interested in sending water, you can send it to the Food Bank of Eastern Michigan, which gives out water daily. Visit their website for more information.
Anyone interested in helping the residents of Flint in their time of need can make a tax-deductible contribution by sending a check made payable to the MEA Classroom Support Fund, with “Flint” in the memo line. Flint Community Schools is a deficit school district, school supplies are greatly needed as teachers in elementary only get $12 per child in their class for the year and high school teachers only get $225 for supplies for the school year. These donations will help families focus resources on other financial obligations, and not buying school supplies.
Checks can be mailed to:
MEA Classroom Support Fund, Attn: Rick Trainor
1216 Kendale Blvd., P.O. Box 2573
East Lansing, MI 48826.
To learn more about NEA and MEA’s response to the Flint water crisis, read “How Dare You Poison Our Children?” in a recent edition of NEA Today. And, learn what you need to know about lead poisoning on our blog.