SHARE

The average person uses 80 to 100 gallons of water per day. But Hillsdale res­ident Betsy Clark said she dis­tributes 4 cases — just over 12 gallons — of water a day to res­i­dents of Flint, Michigan, who are suf­fering from lead-poi­soned water.

When a state of emer­gency was declared in Flint in January after the tap water was dis­covered to contain high levels of lead, Clark chal­lenged her family, friends, and coworkers to start a water drive for the suf­fering fam­ilies there. Her chal­lenge soon became Project FLINT — Faith Living In Needy Times — Hillsdale’s support to the crisis. The project pri­marily col­lects clean water, but also clothes and per­sonal items for Flint.

Lorna Busch, com­munity member, also teamed up with Clark to reach out to the schools and churches. She said that since she heard of the crisis, she woke up three nights in a row at 3 a.m. thinking about it. Finally she decided to take action.

“I just wanted to chal­lenge our county to lift Flint for a very intense and tem­porary time,” she said. “Gov­ernment is not the party we rely on to fix our problems. It has to be the people.”

Kevin Phillips, lead pastor of the Hillsdale Assembly of God, said that it all started with a phone call from Clark and a con­viction that it is a human respon­si­bility to help those in need.

“If this kind of need is rep­re­sented in the state of Michigan so close to home, I think it would be a sorry thing for us not to act,” Phillips said.  

He also said that com­munity involvement has been tremendous. Clark said that she would like to see more Hillsdale busi­nesses and college stu­dents become involved in the effort.

Project FLINT expanded to local schools and churches — including Camden-Frontier schools, Davis Junior High, GEIR Ele­mentary, Hillsdale High School, Pittsford schools, St. Anthony Catholic Church, and St. Paul’s Lutheran Church — who began col­lecting clothes, water, and per­sonal items for the city.

Clark said that she was humbled and sad­dened by how the cit­izens of Flint have suf­fered because of the harmful water.

“These people have bathed in this; their cars are ruined; their clothes are ruined; they’ve ingested the water; they have lesions on their skin; their pets have suf­fered,” she said. “Think of all the uses of water.”

Busch said that the problem in Flint will be lasting and will provide oppor­tu­nities for all kinds of support.

“There are just under 10,000 kids diag­nosed from lead poi­soning effect,” she said. “In this day and age in America, this should not be hap­pening.”

Clark, an employee of Hillsdale Health and Human Ser­vices, set up a col­lection location at her agency, as well as at the cen­trally-located Hillsdale Assembly of God.

She and her family took their first trip to Flint on Feb. 17, deliv­ering, unloading, and dis­trib­uting water and per­sonal items at the Catholic Char­ities of Flint and Owosso.

Since then, the Project FLINT has taken two more trips and acquired larger trans­portation for the many thou­sands of water dona­tions. Clark said that dif­ferent busi­nesses have offered trans­portation, and she esti­mates the com­munity has donated six pallets — 144 cases — of water.

Camden-Frontier High School raised more than 17,000 water bottles, while Davis Middle and High School are donating socks, underwear, and deodorant. Kroger and the Hillsdale Market House have also sent semis of water.

Clark said she hopes they can make the trip every two weeks.

“We’re going to try to keep it going,” Clark said. “The people of Flint have a long way to go. It will take a long time for them to rebound.”

Clark said the support is both national and global.  

“Two semis come every day from dif­ferent parts of the state,” she said. “And they are getting water shipped in from Europe and Africa.”

For Clark, it is about helping people who are in need.

“If every county of the state of Michigan got together and helped,” Clark said, “we could build a whole new Flint.”