FLINT, Michigan -- The Heart of Flint, a group of ministries from local churches led by Nicole and Jeremy Riley, is hosting a free barbecue for the Eastside Franklin Park neighborhood from noon-4 p.m. on June 5. The barbecue will be held at Amos Park (also known as Triangle Park) on Broadway and Vernon, just outside of the neighborhood’s borders. The event will include free food, face painting, a bounce house, games, music, and crafts.
“We have a craft table with one of the ladies from our church, who wanted to do crafts with the kids. So we'll have that set up with some basketball and yard games. We just want to hang out and share a meal together,” Nicole Riley said.
Two weeks ago, the Rileys helped organize a neighborhood clean-up on the eastside to introduce themselves to residents and start to become familiar faces.
“The cleanup was just to kind of introduce ourselves to the community and kind of what we're about. The community barbecue is just to love on them [ESFP residents],” Nicole Riley said. “And to let them know that the eastside is not forgotten.”
The Rileys are active members of Centerpoint Church. Jeremy serves as the worship leader and together they felt a calling to collaborate with other local churches to help restoration efforts on the eastside.
“We've collaborated with a lot of different churches, all different denominations, all different races, which is what we're about,” Nicole Riley said. “We decided to now reach out and unite with the community. So that's kind of what we are doing this summer, it has been our first real community outreach.”
The community barbecue is sponsored by Flint Driven Church, Royal Priesthood, Judson Baptist, and Centerpoint Church.
“It’s a lot of different churches who chose to be involved in the eastside,” Nicole Riley said. “We got a baptist church, a non-denominational church, and a pentecostal church all working together.”
During the recent neighborhood cleanup, Riley noticed something special about the Eastside Franklin Park.
“The appreciation from the people who are actually living there (stood out),” she said. “Even the week before, when we were passing out flyers to invite the community to do cleanup with us, we had several that were just like, ‘Oh my gosh, I'm so glad you guys are doing this!’ Whatever we can do to help, we want to help. I mean, the residents were just so beyond thankful. That gives me hope.”
Riley feels personally motivated to continue her work in the community after watching what others are already doing in the neighborhood. While driving, Riley noticed Asbury Church’s food distribution and urban farm.
“I didn’t even know that until I was driving around the eastside and saw how they’re battling the water crisis and lead poisoning with proper nutrition,” she said.
The Heart of Flint has plans to continue its community outreach this summer. Riley mentioned plans for a festival in August, tentatively scheduled for August 28, for eastside residents.
“It's going to be way, way bigger with live music, dance teams, free food, and games,” she said. “Everything will be free, but much much bigger.”
More information about Heart of Flint is available on their Facebook page.