From water to wisdom: Former Flint distribution site develops into mentoring program

FLINT, Michigan—A table and chairs now sit where cases of bottled water were once stored in the basement of  George Grundy II’s Court Street business. 

“I am looking to build bridges,” said Grundy who launched Man 2 Man, a group aimed at giving young men a forum to talk about issues and to gain resources and education. “Along the road, I want them to have better communication with officials, better communication with politicians, and just have better communication with people.”

Grundy used his Flint business—The Home Advantage Group, a part of the Veterans Of Now nonprofit—as a water pick up location employing Flint’s youth and discovered when young people came to work for him that they were missing skills to make them successful including basic manners.

“I realized they didn’t have soft skills,” said Grundy. “They didn’t have the basic skills needed to even make it through an interview, let alone get a job.”

From there, Man 2 Man was born.

Now every Friday from 6 to 8 p.m., a group of young black Flint men meet in Grundy’s basement at his business on Court Street where they talk about social issues, jobs, education and a number of other things the young men want to address.

“We could be anywhere. It’s Friday night, but we are here,” said  Aaron Neeley, 24, of himself and friends participating in the weekly meetings. “Everything I’ve been doing in the past year has probably been water related. Now I’m determined to do something about what’s going on. I’m determined to not let people forget.”

Participants must be respectful, but they do not have to hold their tongues or their emotions, Grundy said. 

“Then we can have a conversation to explain some things. We can share good information to help people grow. As long as you are alive, there is opportunity to grow,” he said.

For a year, Grundy had about 40 youths ages 16-24 help distribute water through programs at Mott Workforce Development and Action Management Path Program. Now, eight to 10 young men and a number mentors gather weekly to talk. At a recent meeting, they topics of discussion included school, past life, consequences for poor choices, and economic development.

“This is needed,” mentor Nathaniel Fleming said. “I worked with some of these young people, and when I started working with George, I found that a lot of them were disrespectful and just lost. I grew up in a different era where young people had respect for adults, where young people had manners. Here we talked so we can understand each other. So that we can share information, grow, and develop.” 

Grundy said the goal for Man 2 Man’s program is for participants to help structure the group.

“They are trying to write a program for the Man 2 Man from their perspective,” Grundy said. “So we can make sure once we get everything structured the way the youth can understand it—or the young adults can understand it—so that we can be get funding for it, and it can grow and be in other places. 

“This is so they can be the key. So they can be part of something. So they can understand the value in it.”

Grundy is no stranger to community activism. He has been boots on the ground in Flint speaking out against the city’s water crisis and his business, located at 608 W. Court, provides a number of outreach initiatives for military veterans.

The Home Advantage Group is a work and live program supported by the Genesee County Habitat for Humanity in the area.

“We have a space,” said Grundy, a veteran who served in the Marines. “It might not be a the perfect space, but it’s somewhere we can meet and men can speak to each other and not at each other. Here people realize we have more in common than they think.”

In August, Grundy's veteran's organization is holding a job fair in the Flint area and it will be one of the first events Man 2 Man participates in. He has also begun networking with local organizations and churches to grow the number of young men involved.

For more information about Man 2 Man call George Grundy II at  (910) 526-9522.
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