The experience was unbelievable, overwhelming.
That was how two of the lead volunteers from Buffalo described their experience after spending Friday and part of Saturday delivering 100,000 bottles of water to residents of Flint, Mich., whose own water supply is undrinkable.
“It’s almost too overwhelming to describe,” said the Rev. Darius G. Pridgen, pastor of True Bethel Baptist Church and president of Buffalo’s Common Council. “People were so thankful and appreciative. There were people who were just crying, saying, ‘I can’t believe you brought water to this neighborhood.’ It made me furious to hear that the fresh water isn’t getting to some of the people who really need it.”
“It was almost eerie, like something out of a science fiction movie, where an area has been hit by some kind of plague,” said Robert Rich III, president of ROAR Logistics. “We’ve all heard about the situation in Flint, but until you go and see it for yourself, you don’t understand the magnitude of it.
“People are desperate for fresh water there. Everywhere we went, as soon as we started to distribute the water, people would line up on foot or in their cars to get it.”
Pridgen and Rich were with a group of about 40 volunteers who delivered a large truckload of bottled water – about 100,000 bottles – that was donated by people and businesses in Western New York for residents of Flint.
According to Pridgen, the group left for Flint on Friday and spent Friday night taking water to churches, a federally subsidized apartment complex called the Evergreen Regency, and other distribution points.
Flint’s water troubles have become a national story in recent weeks. Operating under the watch of a state-appointed trustee, city officials decided to save money in 2014 by taking drinking water from the polluted Flint River. Experts say children and others may suffer brain damage from lead in the dangerously tainted water. The responses of state and federal officials to the crisis have come under heavy criticism.
“People came up to us and told us they were literally praying that someone would come with water for their neighborhood,” said Rich, whose company, a division of Rich Products, provided transportation for the water.
He and Pridgen said Buffalo-area donors have already provided another 200,000 bottles of water – which will fill two more trucks – which will be delivered to Flint by volunteers next weekend.
“And hopefully, by next weekend, we’ll even have a couple-hundred-thousand more to take them,” Rich said. He and Pridgen said the people of Buffalo have been tremendously generous and willing to help.
George Campbell Trucking Co., Town of Tonawanda, teamed up with ROAR Logistics to transport the water.