Up until today, I didn’t really know what to do. By now, we’ve reached a tipping point of national media attention and public support, so donating money and water through the usual channels felt like a drop in the bucket. (A pun about water. Ha ha. Ha. Ha. There are more to come.) Then this news story popped up in my twitter feed this morning, headline: Undocumented immigrants late to know about water, scared to get help. Illegal immigrants can’t get donations from the Red Cross or the Michigan National Guard, because these sanctioned outlets require them to show ID, and they don’t want to get deported. Why they need to show ID in the first place is a baffling and infuriating question with no good answer. I can only imagine the scores of people taking advantage of this dazzling free bottled water giveaway! If a person shows up and says they need water, I would think at this point we’d be willing to just take their word for it, but whatever. I digress.
The church on Flint’s east side that’s dedicated themselves to distributing water, filters and other supplies to this otherwise forgotten segment of the community, as it turns out, takes about 35 minutes to drive to from my mother’s house in Waterford. It seemed like it would be incredibly easy to load my mom’s pickup truck with water and drop it off there myself. And it was. I was so right.
Plus, me, my fella Aaron and my rottweiler Dorothy are underemployed and bored, generally. It would have been insane not to spend my Friday afternoon on this incredibly easy gesture. I asked facebook and twitter if anyone wanted to pay pal me some money to buy the water, and oh my god. I’m not made of wood: I was overwhelmed and touched by how many people immediately, without question and with a lot of trust in their heart sent me money for the cause.
We raised around $500 in a couple of hours. Just how many moneys worth of water can you fit in the back of a single pick up truck? The answer’s a lot less than I originally guessed. We bought around $80 worth of water at two different grocery stores and headed north. Water, you guys. It’s really cheap and easy to get when you live in a predominantly white suburb called WATERford.
St. Mary’s Church looked tiny and underwhelming from the outside. There were just a couple of cars out front and the church itself was locked. For a moment we worried nobody was there and I’d basically just robbed a bunch of people of their hard earned money for no reason. Dorothy’s first and only act of charity was to take a dump on their lawn, but I mean, she’s a dog and she’d been in the car for an hour. I’m sure St. Mary understands.
Long story continued: We found the little church office where the people who run St. Mary’s work. They were adorable, overworked and grateful. I met one of the fathers of the church: a blondish, gangly man maybe five years younger than me. What a tall drink of water! “Is there a Mrs. Priest?” I thought about saying, but didn’t.
Talking with the people at St. Mary’s, I can assure you of a few things. These are good people who are working hard to do the right thing at the local, grassroots level. They don’t care about politics or accolades or the legal status of the people they’re trying to help. The woman I talked to sounded exhausted by all the attention she was receiving. She said, “People have been calling all day. I haven’t been able to attend to any church business. I don’t want to do interviews.” The compulsive journalist inside of me that wanted to ask a lot of probing questions immediately shut up and took that to heart.
The other thing I noticed was that in the fifteen minutes or so we were at the church, we didn’t see anyone showing up to actually get the water. They are still working hard to reach out to the immigrants in the area, which continues to be their biggest obstacle. The priest told us that that’s what they’re focusing on now: Using the contacts they have in the Hispanic community to reach out and let them know that St. Mary’s is a safe place for them to get water without hassle or fear of prosecution.
If you’ve given me money already, or if you’re planning on doing so in the next few days, I just want to stress that I’ve met the people at St. Mary’s church and that I trust that they’re doing everything they can to get the donations to immigrants specifically. And you can trust me, because I’m a doctor.
And I hope that you trust that I was totally lying just now when I said that I was a doctor.
I am a little concerned about overwhelming the people at St. Mary’s. Our truckload’s worth of water effectively doubled what they already had on hand. They had to move furniture around in a tiny kitchen to make room for the stuff that we brought. As I said before, I spent $80 on water and I cut them a check for $200. The remaining balance from donations so far I promised to mail them directly once the paypal transfer clears and the money’s available in my account. (The 200 I gave them today represents the extent of what I was able to front. I am a poor, sad person).
If you’re interested in helping but haven’t yet, here are two fun and easy options:
1. I’ll continue to take Paypal donations at mollylaich (at) gmail (dot) com over the weekend and then I’ll mail them one big check. This is a solid, lazy option for people who aren’t in the mood to find a stamp, mail a letter, etc. etc. It requires you to trust me, but like I said earlier, I’m a doctor. If you’re reading this after Sunday, January 24th, please, don’t send me money.
2. Checks can be sent directly to St. Mary’s Place at the following address. (People in the Flint area are also free to drop off water, filters, money, etc. here any day between 9 and 4:30pm.)
2500 N. Franklin Ave.
Flint, Mi 48506
To conclude: Thank you so much one more time to everyone who sent me money. You are great people, and I know that it’s going to make a difference. And please, don’t feel bad if you can’t/couldn’t send anything. Money is hard to come by. That’s why it’s called money. Just understanding the issues and having your head and heart right about the things that matter makes all kinds of difference. I kind of sort of really believe that.