Joy Tabernacle Church home to new water delivery effort

FLINT, Michigan — A new water distribution program is launching in Flint, operated out of Joy Tabernacle Church the program is raising money with backing from the likes of Harry Belafonte and Paul Simon. 

The goal for the “Bridge Over Troubled Water” fundraiser on GoFundMe is $21.6 million — to  deliver 40 gallons of water every month to every Flint household until all the pipes are replaced, said Rameen Aminzadeh, the lead organizer of the effort.

Details of the fundraiser will be announced in a press conference Sunday at Joy Tabernacle church, 2505 Chevrolet Ave. — but water distributions already have started.

“Access to safe water is a privilege,” Aminzadeh said in a short break between training delivery drivers and working out logistics in the plan. “It’s a blueprint for a water disaster.”

And, while the goal is a lofty one — Aminzadeh says it also is achievable. The GoFundMe page asks donors to give $3 day (the average cost of a cup of coffee, the fundraiser says) for six months to provide one year of clean water to a Flint family. 

The GoFundMe page so far has received donations from 128 people and $6,849 as of 11 a.m. May 4, 2019.

The “Bridge Over Troubled Water” fundraiser was launched through a combination of efforts, including $15,000 seed money provided by Paul Simon (yes, the legendary musician Paul Simon) to LeeAnne Walters, one of the first activists to sound the alarm on the dangerous condition of Flint water as government officials continued to deny there were any issues.

A key partner in the effort is Justice League NYC, a rapid action team borne out of a nonprofit created by Belafonte to fight racial injustice.
Families will receive countertop water dispensers through the program, which will start small and grow based on the amount of donations. Ten families will receive water this weekend, he said. 

Priority is being given to those who need assistance most, Aminzadeh said. The first families receiving deliveries this weekend come from a list provided by Walters, Pastor Robert McCathern at Joy Tabernacle as well as residents and water activists Kerri Webber and Deanna Avery. 

The program also is designed to be an economic stimulus to the community. Delivery drivers working through the Urban Renaissance Center at Joy Tabernacle Church will be paid $15 an hour, he said. Aminzadeh also acknowledges this system is new and there could be some growing pains along the way, but he also remains very hopeful that the effort will get broad national attention and support so that it can provide clean water to all Flint households. 

Beats Rhymes & Relief is the fiscal sponsor for LeeAnne Walters' nonprofits. Beats Rhymes & Relief  is also producing an eight-part documentary series called “Bigger than Water.” The team first came to Flint in November 2015 and created a partnership with both Walters and the Urban Renaissance Center operated by Pastor Robert McCathern at Joy Tabernacle on Chevrolet Avenue.

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Read more articles by Marjory Raymer.

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