I hear concern in Nikki Dublin Turner’s voice.
Her husband’s family lives in Flint, Mich., where dangerously high levels of lead have contaminated the water since 2014, leaving residents without water to drink or to cook and clean.
Turner’s family visits Flint at least three times a year. Two of her children, ages 4 and 5, spent two summer months with their grandparents there, and Turner worries they could be among the thousands of children exposed to lead-laden water.
“We didn’t know there was lead in the water until somebody blew the whistle,” said Turner, who grew up in Raleigh and now lives in Fort Lee, Va. “My children’s little cousins have been poisoned. I’m really worried and I’m heartbroken.”
I also hear relief in Turner’s voice when we talk about how Southeast Raleigh is helping Flint.
On Feb. 1, The Flint Blueprint - Community Initiative delivered roughly 40,000 bottles of water across more than 700 miles to 2nd Chance Church in Flint.
“It’s really appreciated because this water situation here is such a massive thing,” said Art Horton, 69, Turner’s father-in-law. “There’s no way you can imagine – a whole city can’t use the water.
“For people from so far away who aren’t affected by this to come together and do something like this is amazing,” continued Horton, who is a member of 2nd Chance Church.
“Everybody says love is dead, but love is alive and well,” he said. “People really do care about other people.”
James Montague dreamed up The Flint Blueprint initiative on a sleepless night, “wondering why more people weren’t talking about what’s going wrong with the water supply in Flint.”
“There just wasn’t enough attention, for my tastes,” said Montague, who owns Raleigh-based F7 Development. “It’s an unfair situation. I figured we can either sit back and talk about it – or not talk about it – or we can get our families and our community involved.
“It’s not like we’ve fixed the problem, but doing something is better than doing nothing. We’re doing what we can do,” he added, noting donations from Greensboro, Durham, Cary, Knightdale and Raleigh. “Southeast Raleigh and North Carolina showed up.”
And it ain’t over.
The Flint Blueprint is in the throes of round two.
Through Feb. 27, we can drop off donations of bottled water – by the case, gallon or even bigger – baby wipes and hand sanitizer at three locations at Statue Side Business Plaza on Rock Quarry Road, next to the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Gardens.
Donations also are being accepted at Greensboro-based MBD Logistics, which owns the 18-wheeler that transports the water to Flint. Driver William Matrix Brown is now affectionately dubbed, from Greensboro to Flint, the “Water King.”
Financial donations also are accepted through PayPal at http://paypal.me/MBDLogisticsNC.
“We’re a community that believes in reaching out, showing compassion and helping our fellow man,” said Bernadette McAllister, whose Southeast Raleigh Community Center is a drop-off point. “It’s amazing to see so many people come together because now is the time.
“They need us.”
Outward compassion boomerangs.
“Short term, it will make a big impact in Flint,” said Dionne Blanks, who manages the initiative and is Montague’s sister. “What it has done to bring our community together is beneficial in helping us learn how to work together.”
Montague envisions even more.
“After seeing our community come together to donate that much water in less than a week,” he said, “we can do more.”
How to donate
Donations of water can be dropped off from noon to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday through Feb. 28 at businesses located in the Statue Side Business Plaza, 918 Rock Quarry Road, Raleigh.