'IT BROKE OUR HEART' Club works to ensure fellow members in Mich. have drinkable water

February 16, 2016

(By Rober Sorrell. Source) Members of the Boys and Girls Clubs of the Mountain Empire want to make sure their fellow members in Flint, Michigan, have clean drinking water.

So they are raising money to purchase water for club members in Flint, which has faced an emergency over its lead-contaminated water supply.

“Our service project for February is raising money for the Flint, Michigan water crisis,” said Christine Foote, the club’s program specialist director. “We tried to see how much it would be to ship it, but it was so expensive just to ship water there. We thought we would raise the money.”

Flint has been dealing with water issues for quite some time. In April 2014, the city switched from the Detroit water system to using the Flint River as the city's drinking water source. The decision to not apply corrosion control — now seen as a critical mistake — allowed lead to be scraped from aging pipes into drinking water.

Each month, the children at the local Boys and Girls Club participate in service projects. This month, they are helping fellow children at two Boys and Girls Clubs in Flint.

“We wanted to send a pallet of water,” Foote said. “We are going to pay for it and they can go and pick it up. That’s the most economic way to do it. We knew it would get to a Boys and Girls Club. They can give it to their parents or they just keep it there themselves.”

So far, 32 local children have raised funds for the project. The goal was to raise $500, and they’ve met that goal.

“Our kids had to raise their own money,” Foote said. “They’ve sold candy. We’ve sold Boys and Girls Club bags. We’ve sold ice cream. Everybody is pitching in.”

The time completed to raise money will be marked down for their volunteer hours.

At the end of the month, Foote said, staff will call Sam’s Club and order water and the Michigan clubs can pick it up.

“I told the kids we don’t get to physically give the water to them, but we’re going to take a trip to the Bristol store,” said Foote, adding that it will allow them to see the amount of water that they are purchasing.

The children have also gained a lot of knowledge about the effects of lead in water.

“We take things for granted all the time, like water, in this region,” Foote said. “It broke our heart.”

A simulation was conducted at the club in Bluff City, Tennessee, to demonstrate to the children and their parents the difference between lead-contaminated water and clean water.

“The kids here understand as much as they can about lead,” she said. “They get it. On a child’s level, they understand that it is bad for you. Our kids are great. They just want to help. They are willing to jump in there to do it. They care.”

In the future, club officials hope to purchase additional items for their Michigan counterparts.

“Each of us is our own individual unit, but we’re a family as a whole,” Foote said.” So giving back to one of our own is rewarding.”

There is also a need for shower filters, paper plates, plastic spoons and forks and wipes, Foote learned from the Michigan clubs.

The Boys and Girls Clubs of the Mountain Empire have units in Abingdon, Virginia, Bristol, Virginia, Bristol, Tennessee and Bluff City.

Anyone who would like to make a monetary donation can do so at the club in Bristol, Virginia, at 334 Rebecca St.