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Flint, MI– After an explosion on Flint’s west side last week displaced dozens of families, one pastor said her phone has been ringing nearly non-stop.
Over the past week, Flint and Genesee County residents, restaurants, businesses, and other organizations have been calling Hand of God Ministries asking how they could donate or volunteer to support the victims of the explosion.
“I just am so grateful that our community is a community of care. People have come from all over just to lend a hand just to help organize or bring a donation, it has been a great showing of love and support,” said Pastor Dr. Tonya Bailey.
On Nov. 22, around 9:30 p.m. there was an explosion in a house on the 3900 block of Hogarth Avenue. Three homes burned down as a result, and several homes down the street were damaged. Multiple people were injured, and a 4-year-old girl, and a 55-year-old woman died.
According to a press release from the city from Nov. 29, 20 damaged homes had their utilities shut off. One home has had them restored, but the remaining 19 homes will have their utilities shut off until a final assessment of the area is complete. The assessment, which includes pressure testing the gas lines, is scheduled for this week.
Residents living in that neighborhood have had to find other places to stay as their homes are missing windows and utilities and water have been shut off. For the families whose homes burned down completely, all of their belongings are gone.
The Red Cross has been giving loaded debit cards and housing assistance to those in need, but that will only help for a couple weeks. Many of these residents have been told it could take six to nine months before they can be back at home.
In the meantime, there has been an outpour of support from the community responding to the needs of the families who have been displaced as a result of the explosion.
The United Way fund for the victims, according to a press release from the city, is up to $40,000 with the help of 300 donors. In addition to monetary donations, people have been donating clothing, personal needs items, food, and their time.
“We’ve got a great response and donations keep coming in,” Bailey said. “The phone keeps ringing for those that want to help and want to support both from Flint residents to those that are in other states, to businesses.”
The same has been true for Catholic Charities, an organization that has been helping connect residents impacted by the explosion to housing resources. Mary Stevenson, the volunteer services coordinator for the Center for Hope, said calls came in almost immediately from people wanting to help.
“I’ve got restaurants calling, wanting to donate cans of food, and I’ve got one pastor waiting to hear from me who is going to bring personal needs items up here for us to give out specifically for the victims,” Stevenson said on Nov. 24. “I’ve had, I don’t even know how many calls just this morning, and yesterday, of people wanting to know what people needed, and how they can donate.”
But she said this isn’t unusual for Flint.
“Flint’s one of those places where everybody really does chip in, everybody really comes together, and makes an effort when there’s a definite need like this,” Stevenson said. “Everybody tries to be a good neighbor.”
Catholic Charities opened their Community Closet, which is full of donated clothing items for people in need, the weekend after Thanksgiving, which Stevenson said they wouldn’t have normally done if not for this situation.
“I was looking forward to my four-day weekend, and I was thinking well, I’ll probably have to be in Friday or Saturday to handle whatever we’ve got going on up here. But you know what? I can go home when I’m done here,” she said. “After my three or four hours spent helping… I get to go home to a household with windows and heat and my clothes, and it’s not much of a sacrifice when you look at it that way.”
Stevenson said she went to the scene on the night of the explosion to pass out blankets to keep families who couldn’t be in their homes, warm.
The next day, volunteers with Hand of God Ministries passed out care packages, and continued to distribute lunches and personal needs items to victims of the explosion in the following days. On Thanksgiving, they partnered with Valley Breakfast and Bistro to offer dinners to the residents who were impacted.
According to the city’s press release, Consumers Energy provided care packages for 19 families and is continuing to work to assess their needs.
Several other organizations in Flint and Genesee County stepped in to lend a hand too, including Ashley Furniture, Genesee Health Systems, Home Depot, Italia Gardens, Kroger, MTA, St. Pius, and United Way.
Here are some ways you can join these groups in supporting the victims of the explosion:
Catholic Charities is accepting clothing, including coats for children and adults, and personal needs items donations. They are also opening their Warming Center, located at 609 E 5th Ave, on Dec. 1.
If you want to make a non-perishable food or essential items donation, you can contact Hand of God Ministries at (810)-766-9278.
If you would like to donate to a fund for the victims of the explosion, you can visit the United Way website here.