FLINT, Michigan -- Nicole and Jeremy Riley, co-founders of The Heart of Flint, a group of ministries from local churches, wanted to do something special for Flint’s eastside.
They worked to organize a community barbecue and family-friendly event on June 5, and were excited by the turnout, including families from the Eastside Franklin Park neighborhood.
“We had a lot of people from the actual neighborhood and that was what we wanted,” Nicole Riley said. “We didn't want just our friends from church to come, they know and they will come to support, but this is for the community, not for the church.”
There was free food, tents set up for crafts, and a bounce house in Amos Park. The park was filled with children playing, neighbors spending time together, and a sense of hope.
The event was sponsored by Flint Driven Church, Royal Priesthood, Judson Baptist, and Centerpoint Church. Leaders from each organization gathered together at 9 a.m. for setup at Amos Park. The groups were able to also build connections that will lead to future events in the neighborhood.
Pastor Dion Lewellen and associate pastor Derrick Hullum from Flint Driven church, both pose for a photo during a barbecue on June 5.
“We do a lot of community work,” said Dion Lewellen, pastor at Flint Driven Church. “I just like to see the different churches coming together to work in a community. It ain’t about denominations. It's not about, you know, this area versus this area. Just one body coming together to work together.”
Derrick Hullum, associate pastor at Flint Driven church, was encouraged by how many people came and got to know each other.
“My favorite thing today is just seeing that people came out and are just enjoying each other and the company,” Hullum said. “It's really an at-risk community with people that have been here for a long time. A lot of love is here because a lot of people have been here for a long time and love each other, but they need to come back together. Like they used to have it and come back in unity. Once we can unify, then the neighborhood can be cleaned and be better. We can come back in unity with each other, one by one.”
Aniska Craig, a Flint resident, sat under a tent and enjoyed the wholesome environment the barbecue provided for the neighborhood.
“Being here has been very inspirational and I’m enjoying just being out in a positive environment,” Craig said.
Yvonne Davis and Aniska Craig, Flint residents, talk during a barbecue at Amos Park on June 5.
“I really am enjoying the music here today,” Flint resident Yvonne Davis said. “This gives me hope that the city is going to open up again.”
The barbecue ended with all the food donated, new relationships established, and the eastside and Eastside Franklin Park recognized and reminded that the residents there matter. The neighborhood has not been forgotten.
Nicole and Jeremy Riley, creators of The Heart of Flint, collaborated with other organizations to plan a community event on the eastside.
“Today was perfect,” Jeremy RIley said. “The relationship building that happened today was so important. That's how we're going to see changes, through connections. That's really what motivates us is relationships, loving people genuinely, not because we're trying to get you to come to a church or give money to a ministry. That's out of the question. Our motive is to love. And that's it.”