With a recent push of $28 million in funding from Michigan’s Legislature, residents of Flint will be able to begin reversing the damage from high levels of lead found in their water.
Residents have been slowly poisoned because of untreated lead pipes depositing chemicals into the community drinking water over the past two years, resulting in nine bacterial illness deaths since June 2014.
Communities, and a few affluent individuals, have been donating everything from millions of dollars to physical cases of bottled water to aid in both the short and long term needs of the city.
Rachel Jackson, executive director of Project Compassion, has had a long background of helping those less fortunate. While her program primarily aids the homeless through various means of compassion and empowers young teen girls who want to change for the better, her headquarters on 6609 W. Main Street in Belleville have been accepting donations for the crisis in Flint for nearly a week.
Jackson, 35, has been recognized numerous times for her hard work, including an interview on the Tyra Banks Show, and found herself “furious” to find that citizens are living in America under these conditions.
“It’s inhumane to think that this is how they are living,” Jackson said. “I called one of the local community hubs, Catholic Social Services in Flint, and just said ‘What can we do?’ It was all the same, ‘We need water, we need water.’”
Within just a few days of her idea to help Flint, cases of water bottles began flowing to her doorstep. This weekend, the Buffalo Soldiers of Southwest Illinois are transporting the first batch of her water collection to Flint.
Jackson hopes to connect with a few local agencies near her and fill an entire U-Haul truck.
“Compassion is not limited to the area in which you live in. Compassion can be worldwide,” Jackson said. “We can see it and say ‘Oh that’s a shame because we have water and do what we need to do’ or we can look at it and say ‘What can I do?’”
“Water is easy, we get it all the time around here. So why not pull it out and send it to Flint?” she added.
Feeling the same inspiration, three students from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville began their own impromptu collection.
DaNaya Burnett, 21, Melvina Chaney, 21, and Tarsha Moore, 25, sent out flyers and blasted their message across social media that they were collecting bottled water for the cause. The three girls are not part of a specific organization but had many organizations and friends donate time and bottled water.
“We go it out on Facebook and Instagram and the rest was history,” Burnett said. “Everybody from SIUE started reposting it.”
The girls found that renting a truck would be expensive, despite a $200 credit U-Haul gave them for their efforts.
Moore reached out to The Distinguished Gentlemen's Club, a National Pan-Hellenic Council group, who agreed to move the growing pile of assorted cases in the Morris University Center’s Goshen Lounge on campus and make the seven-hour drive to Flint in exchange for the credit.
They amassed about 100 cases in the first two hours and ended up near 260 by the time they were done.
“I really just want to thank everyone that participated in this,” Chaney said. “I want it to be known that this is a collective SIUE student body effort that is making this possible.”
If you would like to donate to Project Compassion please call 618-397-1790 or visit them at www.projectcompassionnfp.org.