Donations stream into Catholic Charities amid Michigan water crisis

by Traci Badalucco

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The Catholic community in Michigan is ramping up its efforts to support Flint residents affected by the recent crisis that left thousands of households with lead-contaminated tap water.

Health authorities in Genesee County have advised residents to not consume water without using a water filter, according to the City of Flint’s website.

Flint has a population of just under 100,000 residents.

The local Catholic Charities is collecting bottled water for residents in need. A spokesperson said the organization had received around 200 five-gallon containers and 40 to 50 cases of bottled water since Monday, but they are still urging community members to drop off water as the crisis continues.

Locations for dropping off donations of water are listed on the Catholic Charities website.

The Lansing diocese and Catholic Charities has set up an online PayPal account where people can make donations for the water crisis. Money would be used to buy more bottled water once the Flint facility runs out. Catholic Charities has raised more than $2,000 since Thursday.

“The diocese wants to support the people of Flint,” said Deacon Jim Kasprzak, director of Catholic Charities for the Lansing diocese, adding that doing so is a community initiative with an “emphasis in strengthening the Catholic presence in the city of Flint.”

According to NBC News, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder declared a state of emergency last week. The water crisis dates back to April 2014 “when Flint switched from using Detroit's water supply to water from the Flint River to save money.” NBC News reported that “the river water was saltier and began corroding the old pipes and leaching lead into the system.”

On Tuesday, Snyder ordered the Michigan National Guard to distribute bottled water to residents, according to CBS News, and “were expected to arrive as soon as Wednesday to assist state authorities and volunteers in the distribution effort that was already underway.”

Snyder tweeted Wednesday that the National Guard would be on site passing out bottled water and filters at local fire stations.

Vicky Schultz, director of the local Catholic Charities and 17-year employee at the organization, says they are clearing space at their Flint location to make room for anticipated donations amid the continuing crisis.

“With the amount of calls and the attention, it’s finally treating it like we have a crisis,” Schultz said. “I‘m worried now about the long-term of what is going to happen and what are we going to do for the kids that have already been damaged by the water.”

According to the Detroit News, medical professionals also urged residents to limit bath time for children.

“The problem is with small children, you really don’t want them to swallow the shower or bath water,” Dr. Cynthia Aaron, medical director of the Michigan Regional Poison Control Center at DMC Children’s Hospital of Michigan, said.

Dr. Sharon Swindell shared similar concerns. Swindell, a pediatrician and lead poisoning expert at the University of Michigan’s C.S. Motts Children’s Hospital, told the Detroit News that “Any lead exposure in childhood is of great concern, especially in younger children during important stages of brain development.”

Residents should continue using water filters until long term solutions are resolved, according to the City of Flint website. Boiling water does not remove lead from the water.

[Traci Badalucco is an NCR Bertelsen intern. Contact her at]

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