Gary churches step up to help Flint residents

Businesses respond with donations to purchase cases of bottled water

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Leaders who are helping with Flint’s crisis: Pastors Lee Gilliam, New 2nd Baptist Church; Charles Emory, Pilgrim Baptist; Kelvin J. Pennington, owner Smith and Bizzell; and Bishop Tavis Grant, Greater First Baptist Church.

By Louise Scott, Gary Crusader

Rev. Charles Emery, pastor of Pilgrim Baptist Church is leading a group of Gary residents who are collecting donations to purchase bottled water that will be donated to the residents of Flint, Michigan.

The city’s problems started two years ago when the state decided to save money by switching Flint’s water supply from Lake Huron to the Flint River, a notorious tributary that runs through a city known for its filth. It was supposed to be temporary while a new state-run supply line to Lake Huron was being made ready for connection. Soon after the switch, the water started to look, smell and taste funny.

According to Pastor Emery, donations from various churches, businesses and individuals have allowed them to purchase bottled water in large quantities from County Market Grocers. The store owner participated by giving a significant discount to the group.

The store owner told Pastor Emery that he would be placing an order with his supplier for bottled water to be delivered over the weekend because he did not have a sufficient supply to fill their request. Emery said they requested 10 pallets of bottled water, which equals 60 cases per pallet for a total of 600 cases of water.

According to Emery, a number of churches in Gary have donated funds. The other participants include funeral homes Smith, Bizzell and Warner, Guy & Allen and Manuel Memorial Funeral Home. In addition, Liberty Baptist Church has plenty of bottles in storage they are donating thanks to some of their members.

“We are anticipating that we will have an 18-wheeler ready to transport the water to Flint,” he said.

A pastor of a church in Flint, who is part of the operation, will receive the water for distribution.

Emery said people in Gary came together for the effort to support Flint’s majority of Black residents, who accused city and state officials of ignoring initial concerns about the water. Some community leaders in Flint said residents’ concerns would have been addressed if they were white or affluent.

He said, “The majority of the people are Black people. I understand the people in the suburbs of Flint, Michigan do not have the same problem that the urban citizens have. Many of us are in the same National Baptist Convention. The pastors we are working through are Baptist pastors in Flint, Michigan. We feel it is our responsibility to reach out and aid and assist people that we know need help, especially churches. The bible says to do good to all men especially those of the household of faith.”

Smith, Bizzell and Warner Funeral Home was one of the first businesses to respond to Emery’s request for funds to purchase bottled water for Flint residents.

Sandi Cogan, the funeral home’s director of Community Affairs and Public Relations, said her employer was more than pleased to be a part of this initiative. She said, “It is a national disaster. We did the same thing for Hurricane Katrina when the National Council of Negro Women asked us to make a donation towards their truck load of water to go to New Orleans.”

Rev. Emery said they will make sure that this water will get into the housing developments in Flint because they hear that the people there are not getting their fair share of the water being donated. He said, “We were told not to give our donation to the Red Cross or to the Police Departments because they have a tendency to give it to who they want to have it. The main people don’t get it. It’s not reaching its needed destination.”

On Saturday, February 6 volunteers are needed from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at County Market to help load U-Haul trucks up with the water. Liberty Baptist Church a business man in their congregation that owns an 18-wheeler. He has told his pastor that he will be in Gary Sunday to leave out Monday morning to transport the water from the U-Haul trucks into his semi-tractor trailer and take it to Flint, Michigan.

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