Ruth Mott Report | Flint Water Crisis
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A $1 million commitment amid the Flint water crisis

In late 2015, the Flint community was devastated when scientific and medical studies revealed Flint’s drinking water contained high levels of lead – resulting in elevated blood lead levels among the most vulnerable populations.

The following February, the Ruth Mott Foundation Board of Trustees dedicated $1 million to address the Flint water crisis, with the funding directed toward short-term and long-term needs of Flint’s children and adults exposed to lead.

“We feel great compassion for our community and we are compelled to act knowing that the water situation clearly impacts the health and vitality of every resident,” Ruth Mott Foundation Board Chair Maryanne Mott said at the time. “We have made this pledge to support Flint residents during this crisis.”

The $1 million dedicated to the Flint water crisis has not reduced the Foundation’s commitment to implementing its strategic plan in north Flint.

“While it is essential for the Foundation to address the water crisis through this financial support, as a Flint place-based funder we are here to work in partnership with the community to implement solutions to this and other issues that contribute to a better future for Flint residents,” Foundation President Handy Lindsey said.

One of the first water grants was a $150,000 contribution to the Flint Child Health and Development Fund at the Community Foundation of Greater Flint, also known as the Flint Kids Fund. The Fund is a supplemental resource to the ongoing pursuit of state and federal funding to aid children with health, nutrition, and education interventions that support positive outcomes for Flint’s children exposed to lead. Read more about it at www.flintkids.org.

A summary of all the grants awarded to date from the water fund can be found here.

What to Know and Do About Water

Despite numerous interventions already taking place amid the Flint water crisis, community leaders feared there were still residents drinking unsafe water. This video tells the story of how the Ruth Mott Foundation, Urban Renaissance Center, United Way of Genesee County, and other partners came together to develop a project to serve the hard-to-reach residents in Flint’s 2nd Ward on the city’s north side.

Beyond the Ruth Mott Foundation’s $1 million commitment, the Foundation in concert with community members identified other methods of addressing the Flint water crisis.

Soon after reports surfaced about the elevated lead levels in Flint’s water, Pastor R. Sherman McCathern was one of the first community leaders to come to the Ruth Mott Foundation with concerns that — despite numerous interventions already taking place — there were still Flint residents drinking unsafe, unfiltered tap water.

Drawing on the Ruth Mott Foundation’s past experiences with convening, the Foundation arranged a conversation among Flint residents, community leaders, and partners to come up with possible solutions to the problem. The key questions the group faced: What are the major obstacles to obtaining safe water? And, what could we do to get critical water information and resources to hard-to-reach Flint residents?

A survey was conducted and several meetings were convened over several months in the spring of 2016 to analyze the issue. Among the core partner organizations at the table were the Community Foundation of Greater Flint, United Way of Genesee County, and the University of Michigan-Flint.

By the final meeting, the group developed an idea for a pilot project with two important pieces: The first was a one-day neighborhood water expo where residents could come to a well-known community location and get water-related resources and information. The second key portion was door-to-door delivery of water and other services utilizing paid workers — because we heard loud and clear that volunteers were burned out from responding to the crisis. The door-to-door distribution also included a survey to identify residents’ needs and learn more about their experiences with access to services for the water crisis, filter installations, and cartridge replacements.

The project was called, “What to Know and Do About Water,” and had an overarching goal of creating a template for the expo and door-to-door canvassing that could be replicated in other neighborhoods in need of water and related resources. The pilot focused on the Civic Park Neighborhood in the 2nd Ward because that is where community leaders notified the Foundation that serious gaps existed between the residents and the services being provided.

The project was carried out by the Urban Renaissance Center in north Flint under the leadership of Pastor McCathern. It was funded with $43,300 from the Ruth Mott Foundation, $43,497 from United Way, and $10,000 from the Community Foundation.

“We feel great compassion for our community and we are compelled to act knowing that the water situation clearly impacts the health and vitality of every resident. We have made this pledge to support Flint residents during this crisis.”

The expo was held in July 2016, and the worker training and canvassing took place from May through September of 2016. The project accomplished several objectives:

  • Provided employment and training to 33 Flint residents to complete door-to-door canvassing, surveying, data entry, and water delivery to reach residents not currently served through water crisis efforts.
  • Canvassed hundreds of households and collected data that provided information about residents’ experiences with access to services for the water crisis.
  • Provided delivery service of water, filters, and replacement cartridges to 176 homes and delivered an average of 430 cases of water per week.

In November 2016, the core partners involved with the project sent a letter to Gov. Rick Snyder and shared the What to Know and Do About Water Pilot Project Final Report. It included recommendations to ensure residents are receiving the water and services they need amid Flint’s recovery from the water crisis. One recommendation to the State was to develop a plan to support neighborhood groups in each ward of the city as they continue to serve vulnerable residents who require ongoing door-to-door services.

By September of 2017, door-to-door home delivery was transitioned from the state to grassroots organizations in Flint.