FLINT, Michigan -- The Ruth Mott Foundation will extend its commitment to focus on north Flint for at least another five years. The initiative was originally launched in 2016 and is focused on four priorities identified by residents -- youth programs, public safety, economic opportunity, and neighborhoods.
In a news release, the foundation announced that through 2025, they will continue to seek feedback from residents on those priorities that include blight elimination, neighborhood centers, and job training, among more.
“We knew that shifting to a more focused place-based approach in Flint would require a long-term commitment—and that was before the water crisis and before COVID-19,” said Raquel Thueme, Ruth Mott Foundation president, in a news release. “As we renew our commitment to north Flint, we pledge to continue listening to the people who live and work here and directing our resources within the neighborhoods and priorities that need them the most.”
Since October 2015, when the Foundation started phasing in the north Flint strategy, more than $28 million in grants (a full list is available online) have been awarded to community programs, with most going to the youth and neighborhoods priority areas.
The Ruth Mott Foundation used Berston Field House as an example of this initiative at work. Berston was one of the first programs supported under the north Flint strategy in 2016. At the time, north Flint resident Bryant Nolden had been voluntarily running Berston for years: mowing the lawn, opening the gym, and acting as facilities director. He’s now the executive director. Since then, the Ruth Mott Foundation has granted $510,000 through the United Way of Genesee County for Berston. In the ensuing years, the historic community center has attracted additional funds to be able to hire additional staff, build a playground, and develop a fundraising plan.
“It’s been really gratifying to see Berston get the attention and resources it needs to build on its long legacy and continue to be a place where residents, especially our seniors and young people, can access important recreational and enrichment opportunities,” Nolden said in a news release. “Berston Field House is an essential part of north Flint.”
The Ruth Mott Foundation also listed several other areas of progress since the initiative was launched, including:
Blight elimination. In one example of a blight elimination initiative, the number of north Flint parks adopted and used has increased with the Foundation’s funding to the Genesee County Parks and Recreation Commission. About 39 north Flint parks are adopted annually, and close to 1 million pounds of garbage and yard waste have been collected as part of the programs since 2016 – just one indication of the parks and gateway gardens’ increased use and maintenance. New playgrounds, picnic tables, and sports amenities have been installed in many parks with the Foundation’s funding and several other sources of support.
Foundation grants have helped eight community centers open and/or operate in neighborhoods across north Flint. The neighborhood hubs have seen their sources of support increase and their collective revenue more than double since 2016. In addition to Berston, the other hubs are: Asbury Community Development Corp., Flint Development Center, Latinx Technology & Community Center, Neighborhood Engagement Hub, St. Luke NEW Life Center, Sylvester Broome Empowerment Village, and Urban Renaissance Center.
North Flint, as defined by the Ruth Mott Foundation, is everything within the city limits north of the Flushing Road/5th Avenue/Longway Boulevard corridor. It includes the areas historically known as the Northside and Eastside.