By: Cody Boteler, Senior Editor
A group of 45 Towson students helped distribute food and water to 191 families in Flint, Michigan, over the weekend, as participants in a volunteer effort based out of the city’s Greater Holy Temple Church of God in Christ.
The students traveled to Flint on a charter bus, because bringing students to volunteer for the day cost less than shipping the water would have.
Round-trip, the charter bus, equipped with electric outlets in the seats and bus-wide Wi-Fi, cost the Student Government Association $4,000. The bus left Towson at midnight and arrived in Flint around 9:30 a.m. on Saturday.
Alpha Kappa Psi Community Service Chairwoman Taylor Washington said she got the idea to do something to help Flint while she was watching the news over winter break. Flint was declared to be in a state of emergency in January, because of a series of infrastructure issues that lead to lead contamination of drinking water.
When Washington heard, she immediately texted friends in other leadership positions on Towson’s campus.
“We collected water for about four days,” she said. “I lost count of how many cases of water we ended up collecting.”
That water, along with donated money, traveled with TU students from campus to Flint. Upon arrival, students quickly unloaded cases and bottles of water before getting to work packaging and distributing supplies.
First Lady of the Church Sandra Jones, who’s been responsible for a lot of the water distribution out of Greater Holy Temple, worked with Washington to get the students into groups so that they could get started.
Some students worked with packaging “loose” water, some packaged food for distribution and some worked with other volunteers to actually distribute water to residents.
“When we started this, it was just me, one other pastor and his wife, my husband, our church, that was it,” Jones, the wife of the pastor of the church, said. “Next thing I knew we were getting water from all other country.”
Alpha Phi Alpha, Alpha Kappa Psi, TU NAACP, the Black Student Union, the SGA and the African Diaspora Club were listed as sponsors of the trip.
In total, students helped service 191 families by distributing 61,110 bottles of water and bags of food and hygiene supplies to every car that wanted them.
“For our church, the best way for us to help is for people to come to us,” Jones said. “We found that we service better that way. We’re more effective and we can service more people.”
Jones said that she isn’t mad at anyone because of the water crisis, but she is disappointed.
“It wouldn’t do me any good to be angry,” she said. “It wouldn’t do me any good to be frustrated, because when you’re frustrated you cease to move. You don’t have a response.”
Before departing Flint, students gathered in a fellowship hall at the church to reflect on the day. Common themes included shock at what the situation was like and an appreciation for the deeper understanding they gained from seeing the crisis first hand.
“I’m more happy about the people who went being educated on what happened in Flint,” Washington said. “It’s like a stepping stone. You learned about what happened in Flint, so now you’re going to be more inclined to learn about what’s happening in Baltimore or anywhere else in the world.”
Washington said that she was excited at the prospect of organizing service trips into Baltimore City in the future.
Greater Holy Temple Church of God in Christ distributes water on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays from 11 a.m.-4 p.m.