Hillsdale College stu­dents traveled with the Rotoract Club to Flint, Michigan, Sat­urday to donate over 300 cases of bottled water.
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Col­lecting 5,785 water bottles in just five days seemed impos­sible, but the Hillsdale College Rotoract Club managed to do just that.
The club ran a water drive last week, col­lecting dona­tions for Flint H2O, an orga­ni­zation ded­i­cated to bringing relief to the city stricken by lead-poi­soned water. Stu­dents delivered the con­tri­bu­tions to Flint, Michigan, and vol­un­teered at a dis­tri­b­ution center Sat­urday.
The Rotoract Club asked for dona­tions of both water bottles and other basic neces­sities, such as dry shampoo and cleansing wipes. They received 5,785 water bottles, 108 gallon jugs of water, 18 bottles of formula, 14 packages of cleansing wipes, and three con­tainers of dry shampoo.
“It was a lot more suc­cessful than we could have imagined,” said Rotoract Sec­retary sophomore Beth Stalter, who orga­nized the drive. “We weren’t sure if we started too late, but we ended up getting over 300 cases of water.”
The drive brought in so much more than antic­i­pated, the club had to find extra trans­portation.
“We got so much water we didn’t know what to do with it,” said sophomore Kaitlin Makuski, a Rotoract member who went on the trip. “The night before, we were scram­bling to get enough cars to transport it to Flint.”
A group of 14 people, including both Rotoract Club members and other vol­un­teers, visited Flint Sat­urday to drop off the water and to aid in other ways. The group orga­nized pre­vi­ously donated water at the drop-off point and cleaned a nearby lot for future use.
Trans­porting the water to the city is just the first step, though. Getting it into the hands of cit­izens is more dif­ficult, Makuski said.
“A lot of people aren’t going to the dis­tri­b­ution centers,” Makuski said. “You have to take it to their house or give it an orga­ni­zation that will do that for you.”
Although most members of the trip had to leave after cleaning the lot, four vol­un­teers stayed behind to pass out water to the sur­rounding neigh­borhood.
“Some people will come out of their house and ask you for water. Some people are so thankful, they’ll cry,” Stalter said. “They’re very emo­tional because it is such a big deal for them, and they don’t have help. They think there’s no hope, that they’ve been aban­doned.”
Sophomore Summer Burk­holder helped deliver the dona­tions and pass out water. She also vol­un­teered during the Hillsdale spring break mission trip, where stu­dents helped Flint H2O, as well.
“It’s really run down, with all the aban­doned houses,” Burk­holder said. “When you go door to door, you have to decide whether anybody lives there anymore. Some­times it’s quite obvious because the front door is missing, and you can see all the way through to the back of the house. I haven’t been in quite so aban­doned of a town before.”
The club, which began on campus this year, is happy with the yield of their first project, Stalter said.
“I’m so proud of everyone here,” Stalter said. “It makes such a dif­ference. It’s really important because this issue is going to last for a long time.”