As the Flint Water Crisis unfolded in 2015, Farmington Hills, Mich. native and NFL pro Drew Stanton wanted to do something for the city residents … and he wasn’t alone.
After water was declared unsafe to drink in October 2015, celebrities — many of whom grew up in the Detroit area — came out in droves to help. Hip hop artists Meek Mill and Big Sean donated bottled water and money. Rap artist Eminem teamed up with Wiz Khalifa, Sean “Diddy” Combs and actor Mark Wahlberg to donate one million bottles of water.
Recognizing all that was already being done, Stanton wanted to do something different.
“I saw a lot of guys already doing great things for the city,” said Stanton. “So I asked Kim (Doverspike, Executive Director of the High 5ive Foundation) to look into what else we could do.”
Doverspike contacted Flint Presbyterian Church in Flint, with whom she knew Pastor Paul Ytterock. He put her in touch with staff member Brenda Poe-Finkbeiner.
“At the time, (the crisis) was really spotlighted in the news media nationwide and we had just truckloads of water being delivered,” said Poe-Finkbeiner. “Well, Drew wanted to do something beyond sending a truckload of water.”
Fresh Flint Festival
Poe-Finkbeiner brainstormed and ultimately came up with the idea for the Fresh Flint Festival, an event that would bring together athletes, local businesses and organizations, and community members.
The idea was to provide resources to local families while engaging them in physical activity and nutrition.
“Physical activity and good eating habits are very important to help mitigate the effects of lead poisoning, so the whole event goes hand-in-hand with what is needed for these people,” said Poe-Finkbeiner.
“Those are two things that underprivileged people don’t always have access to. They aren’t always living the most healthy lifestyle, they don’t have access to resources to get them.”
This year’s April 22 event marked the second-annual Fresh Flint Festival. Stanton’s High 5ive Foundation was the top sponsor for the second year in a row.
“Unfortunately I haven’t been able to attend due to my football schedule,” said Stanton, who has been with the Arizona Cardinals since 2013, “but seeing photos and hearing the success stories has been really gratifying.”
Access to Resources
More than 30 local-area exhibitors were on hand for this year’s Fresh Flint Festival highlighting health, proper nutrition, sports and other extra-curricular activities. The goal is not only to have fun at the event, but to connect families with resources beyond the event.
“We had one organization, for example, that delivers lunches to homes of children all summer long,” said Poe-Finkbeiner. “They were at the event giving away lunches and signing people up for the summer lunch program. If parents don’t know that’s available, they’re not going to have access to it.
“I’m sure that schools are sending things home, but not every parent’s going through their kid’s backpack every night. If we can hook up one family to a resource like that, that’s critical.”
The event has drawn attention for it’s unique take on the city’s water crisis. A major cable network even reached out to First Presbyterian to put together a documentary highlighting its impact, but was ultimately unable to attend.
“I really credit Drew for challenging us,” said Poe-Finkbeiner. “Saying, ‘I want to do something, I don’t know what I want to do, but I want it to be awesome. You tell me what I can do.’
“He challenged us to think of what we could do to respond to this crisis, and it’s been extremely valuable.”