The water crisis in Flint, Mich., captured national headlines, but two Raleigh business owners noticed another town where the drinking water has been described as “sludge.”
Ray Harper and Jacquil Leathers are teaming up to collect donations and deliver clean water to St. Joseph, La., where yellow and brown water has become the norm for the impoverished town of about 1,000 people. Louisiana state officials say the problem is old pipes that are too expensive to fix.
Residents say water quality has been an issue for years, but it didn’t receive much attention until the Flint water crisis.
Ray Harper owns Others Helping Others Prosper (OHOP) Clothing, and Leathers owns 7CutzAbove, a hair-styling business that travels to the homes of people with special needs. They are seeking donations of jugs or cases of bottled water that they will deliver to St. Joseph on March 12.
Harper, who works as a teacher at Southeast Raleigh High School, founded his clothing company in 2003 in an effort to help others by selling T-shirts and organizing charity events. Proceeds, including those from the company’s GoFundMe page, help provide clothing for the homeless and intervention for at-risk kids.
The company also tackles a regular charity project – like the water drive.
“When I called down and talked to people at churches in the area, they said they’ve been having issues since 2012 and always boil their water,” Harper said. “If you grew up in St. Joseph after 2000, you never really saw clear water.
“It’s just crazy not to have clean water in America in 2016.”
As the team distributes the water, Leathers plans to offer free haircuts to St. Joseph residents. She said she can do 30 to 40 haircuts in one day.
“We want to make people feel better,” she said. “You get that nice haircut and put on your best outfit and feel like you can take on anything.”
How to donate
To donate water, call Harper at 919-337-8488 or Leathers at 919-825-6918. Monetary donations are being accepted at www.gofundme.com/theohopmovement.