Volunteering in Flint- 5 Things to Know

Groups and individuals from all over the United States are flying into Flint Bishop Airport or driving hours to donate their time and skills to alleviate the disaster of lead contamination with the Flint water system. Over the next several weeks, 1000’s of volunteers will converge on this metropolitan area of 38,000 homes and 100,000 people. If you’re planning on coming, thanks for your service! Here are a couple of things to know that may help you hit the ground running.

IMG_0922Come Prepared to Work – You may have signed up for a specific job but if there is an immediate need you WILL be placed where you’re needed. The front line job is going door-to-door passing out bottled water, filters and test kits. (It’s the best) Working in the warehouse is also a possibility. Therefore be a good Scout and Be Prepared. This includes coats and clothing that you’re comfortable in working in and getting dirty. Wear work or hiking boots. Warm socks. Gloves and hats. Bring a snack, some cash and even stuff to share with your crew like gum or hard candy. By the end of the day you and your crew should be working in unison and small comforts are wonderful.

Positive Attitude – Keep in mind that everyone your working with is a volunteer. IMG_0924Even the trained DR (Disaster Recovery), people are only getting their expenses paid otherwise they are working for free. There may be times where nothing is going on and Red Cross and DR folk are on the phone coordinating their next move. Things change quickly and be adaptive. Be supportive and positive as these guys get stressed they been doing this for weeks. When you knock on doors be positive and helpful. If you get a disgruntled individual tell them your here to help but respect their privacy.

Educate Yourself – Read the labels on the IMG_0925water filters, test kits and pamphlets that your will be passing out. Read the instructions out loud to your crew. Talk about it. Residents are anxious and will be asking YOU questions. You’re wearing a Red Cross vest and ID, you’re considered the “expert” and the authority at their door. If you don’t know, tell them you will find out and get an answer from the para-professionals. If your team doesn’t know say so and be prepared to give the residents resources and phone numbers to someone who can help. When you get back to the ERV report what you have learned. If they have kids, say so. If you think they are a shut-in, point it out. If they are an extended family in the house get another case of water and make a note of it. If they want nothing to do with you, say so. That is your job! Your efforts today will bring better results tomorrow.

Keep Your Eyes Open for Each Other – The dangers of going door to door is IMG_0928ACCIDENTS. Cars, Dogs and falls on ice are the enemy in the winter. Work in pairs or a team of three. Yell out when a car is coming. Tell everyone within earshot that you’re on a patch of ice. When you knock on a door yell RED CROSS loud! DO NOT go into a yard with Dog or Guard Dog warnings posted. DO NOT go into a house unless its an emergency. Stay within sight of each other. Put the cell phone away. If a porch seems ready to cave in, back off go to the side door. If you get hurt say so and go back to the ERV (Emergency Response Vehicle) Our crew had no incidents and this resulted in over 150 homes visited and two pallets of water distributed.

Be Prepared to be Amazed – You will be IMG_0931working in a National Disaster Area. You will see Red Cross ERVs crossing the city everywhere and your will see everyday life going on. It may seem like chaos but you’re here helping out. You will knock on the door of a house that your sure is vacant only to be answered by an 89 year old who isn’t sure about how to get the filter on. You will see a young guy taking care of five kids during the day and he works at midnight. You will smell weed. You will be offered gifts. You will see folk making the best of what they have and you will gain a new respect for them. It’s a life changing experience and I understand why some people are hooked on being a DR groupie.

If you’re interested in helping our fellow humans living within this Flint Water crisis consider volunteering a day or donate. Contact the Flint American Red Cross at, 1401 S. Grand Traverse St. in Flint. Hours will be Monday –Friday 11 a.m.-6:30 p.m. Monday through Friday,   9 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday, and noon-5 p.m. Sunday. “It is expected that this distribution effort will continue for some time and it will take a lot of volunteers to help,” Adults can help with door-to-door deliveries. Volunteers ages 13-17 must have a parent come with them, and they will not go door-to-door. To register your group email: victoria.fryer (@) redcross.org.