Calvin supported water drive raises over 300 cases of water donations

Photo+by+Nathan+Stripp
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Calvin supported water drive raises over 300 cases of water donations

Photo by Nathan Stripp

Photo by Nathan Stripp

Photo by Nathan Stripp

Photo by Nathan Stripp

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Senior Martin Cervantes successfully raised nearly 300 cases of water and 64 gallons jugs last Saturday for Flint residents affected by the ongoing water crisis.

Around 50 students gathered on campus the morning of January 23 to assist the American Red Cross and the Mission of Hope church in their efforts to provide relief for Flint residents.

With the backing of the college administration, Cervantes and a team of organizers were able to secure four passenger vans to transport students. 

To handle the hundreds of cases of water they collected, Jane Prins, executive assistant to VP of student life, and her husband Duane provided a trailer to help transport donations.

The group departed Calvin at 11 a.m. and was informed upon arrival that the American Red Cross was unable to accept any water donations due to prioritizing resources toward distribution. Fortunately, organizers were able to quickly resolve the issue and reroute the water donations to Mission of Hope, a local church.

Students divided into two teams, with one supporting distribution efforts at the American Red Cross and another in unloading donations at Mission of Hope. At the church, students found themselves assisting many donors who also traveled to Flint to donate water.

“I met a couple that had driven from Chicago just to bring a carful of water,” said senior Michael Messina. “I think I learned that if everyone does something little we can make a really big difference.”

Messina was also inspired by Reverend Bobby Jackson from Mission of Hope and his passion for serving the community.

“At the end of our time at Mission of Hope, [Reverend Jackson] told me, ‘I want to store as much water as I can because when the lights and cameras and TV coverage goes away, people will still need water.’”

The group assisting the American Red Cross was tasked with conducting data entry to help keep track of Flint residents receiving water. The group also helped load trucks with water cases set for distribution.

For many participants, the experience evoked a mixed emotional response towards the surrounding neighborhood.

On the one hand, it was amazing to see such a large group of people come together and try to help the community on such short notice,” said Brianna Marshall, a research specialist at the Center for Social Research. “On the other hand, actually being in Flint and seeing the landscape made me realize that it needs much more than water.”

“There were potholes everywhere, and a lot of the houses looked to be on the verge of collapse,” added Marshall. “The loss of jobs has taken a severe toll on the city.”

For Cervantes, the idea began earlier in the week as he felt called to engage his fellow students to help those in need within the Flint community. Quickly acting on his ideas, Cervantes wrote a letter appealing to students, staff and faculty at Calvin to support his initiative. Within two days students flocked to support the event on Facebook, and 47 students signed up the night prior to the event.

With help from Service-Learning Center department assistant Tonisha Begay and student body president Ethan DeVries, Cervantes was able to successfully organize the logistics of the event and collaborate with administration to ensure the event would run smoothly.

Begay acknowledged that while the water drive was a great short term solution, much work still needs to be done in the long term.

I remember the words earlier in the week from Leroy Barber, Kurt Ver Beek and Patrisse Cullors of Black Lives Matter: ‘There is a place and a need for service, even when it is done out of charity,’” said Begay. “This trip didn’t solve any big problems, but it provided an opportunity to learn, listen and to show solidarity. Now, we need to continue that.”

Looking ahead, Cervantes intends to continue to facilitate initiatives toward helping those in Flint.

“I’m thinking we would go down at least once a month and continue collecting water and expand our volunteers by getting the word out so that more people can join us,” said Cervantes. “We learned so much about the community during our time in Flint and there is a lot more that we can learn about how well we can help and how we can efficiently provide our resources to the people of Flint.”

One way Cervantes plans to continue this work is by submitting a proposal to student senate to seek financial support.

“My hope is that we have made the groundwork so that we can continue going to Flint,” said Cervantes. “We aim to solidify our plan and vision to continue this throughout the next couple of months.”