Pastor Jace Cox of Liberty Praise Center put a simple message on Facebook three weeks ago asking for water donations for residents in Flint, Michigan. Now the basement of his church is full of bottled water.
Volunteers were at work in the parking lot of a Badcock furniture store all day Saturday for the donation drive’s final weekend push, and the water came flowing in.
“Initially I thought it would be one pickup truck of supplies,” Cox said. “It has turned into a movement.”
Businesses and churches in 10 other cities answered Cox’s call to action and quickly set up donation centers. Together, they already sent one 18-wheeler of water to Michigan, and several more truckloads will depart this week.
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When the city of Flint changed its water supply from Lake Huron to the Flint River two years ago, the water became contaminated with iron and lead. The tap water turned brown, and many residents began reporting health issues such as hair loss, rashes and stunted growth caused by lead poisoning.
“It could be us,” Cox said. “We have a water problem here in Sanford, but we got so many donations they ran out of storage.”
Liberty Praise Center previously collected water for the residents of Colon Road in Sanford, where carcinogens were recently found in the water from several residential wells.
The idea that water is a basic need resonates with the city of Sanford. Cox said that’s why so many people wanted to help Flint.
“It’s an opportunity to give back to the community,” said Tamekia Dowdy, a teacher at Highlands Middle School. She encouraged the school’s Beta Club to send volunteers to the final water drive on Saturday.
“My mom grew up next to Flint, so I just wanted to help out the place where she grew up,” said Emmalee White, a seventh-grade student who volunteered to carry water from donors’ cars to the trucks.
Despite cold weather, more than a dozen volunteers came to help fill pickup trucks and tractor-trailers that will transport the water to 18-wheelers headed for Michigan.
“Once you get the community involved in helping others, it gets big,” Brenda Mclean, a member at Liberty Praise Center, said.
Other initiatives to send water to Michigan are popping up around the Triangle. A recently created Raleigh organization called Time is Change has raised $2,500 to send water to Flint.
“It’s just something we take for granted,” said Time is Change founder Milo Alston, who hopes to fill two U-Haul trucks with water by Tuesday.
Another Raleigh resident, James Montague Jr., joined forces with truck company MBD Logistics to send more than 10,000 bottles of water to Flint in January.
The last day to send water donations to Liberty Praise Center is Sunday.
How to help
Liberty Praise Center is at 1512 Westover Drive, Sanford. Call 919-704-4105 for information on donating water or money.
The United Way in Genesee County, Michigan, is also collecting donations for Flint. To donate, visit bit.ly/1n9KvWf.