Eastside Franklin Park

Churches and faith organizations partnering for community event at Kearsley Park

FLINT, Michigan -- Jeremy Riley remembers driving through the eastside of Flint and seeing the desolate space of what once was AC Spark Plug. That night, he researched some of the history of the eastside, a place he has a personal connection to, and he found an old advertisement for the once-booming factory entitled, “The Spark that Reignites Flint, AC Sparkplug.” 

Riley and his wife Nicole made a decision that they would be part of “reigniting” the eastside by starting a ministry called The Heart of Flint. Their goal is to unite local ministries on the eastside to empower the community and transform an area of Flint that often feels forgotten by hosting community events that bring people together.

On August 28, The Heart of Flint will be hosting its first “Unity Festival” at Kearsley Park from noon-6 p.m., with live music until dusk. The festival will include free food, bounce houses, live entertainment, and giveaways.

“The revival that's going to happen in the eastside is going to spread. It's going to reignite Flint,” said Nicole Riley.

Earlier this summer, The Heart of Flint held their first community event at Amos Park. 

“The first event was kind of just getting our toes wet,” Nicole Riley said. “We had a great response from the community. So it just encouraged us to push forward with the bigger festival. The festival is mainly to get all the churches that we've been partnering with together at one location to benefit the community.”

Flint’s Driven Church’s dance team will be performing two dances in the pavilion at Kearsley Park. The Christian music band, led by Jeremy Riley, The End of I, will be performing alongside local rapper Duncan Raps. The Heart of Flint’s worship team, a collaboration of musicians from different churches, will also be providing live music. 

Each church and ministry at the festival will be setting up tents with the goal for each tent to have a special gift to give to eastside residents. “I want everyone to walk away from one of those tents with something other than just information about that church or ministry,” said Nicole Riley. One of the basket giveaways will be a “Blessings Basket” filled with toiletries and other essential items that could be needed by anyone struggling with housing. 

“If we can unite these churches to work together as a team within the community, I feel like we could be so much more,”  Nicole Riley said. “I feel like the community would really benefit. So that's our goal is to change the mindset, to work more with another, take down the barriers. It doesn’t matter that you're a Baptist church and they're a Methodist church. It doesn't matter that you're primarily an African American church and they're primarily a Caucasian church. Remove that. That doesn't matter. What matters is that we come together and truly benefit our community.”

Read more articles by Jenifer Veloso.