Volunteers distribute good cheer and turkey along with water to City of Benton Harbor residents

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Nov. 23, 2021

CONTACT: Lynn Sutfin, 517-241-2112

LANSING, Mich. - More than 165,000 cases of bottled water have been distributed to City of Benton Harbor residents in the last month and a half thanks to the numerous volunteers who have provided countless hours of their time in partnership with the State of Michigan.

At Harbor of Hope Seventh Day Adventist Church, volunteers come from all walks of life and have come together to form a family atmosphere where they support one another, said Jharony Gibbs, Harbor of Hope youth pastor.

"The volunteers that come out to bless us and the residents who come for water make this a very positive experience for all," said Gibbs. "There is so much positive energy."

Volunteers include students, staff and pastors from nearby Andrews University; Harbor of Hope church leaders and members; students from other colleges; and community members and volunteers from the United Way.

In addition to water, Harbor of Hope was recently able to give away 100 turkeys provided by Andrews University along with oranges and apples provided by the church. Harbor of Hope also provides numerous programs to support the youth of Benton Harbor including teaching life skills and reading support and sports activities.

Free bottled water continues to be provided by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) and local, paid residents as City of Benton Harbor residents are being encouraged to use bottled water for cooking, drinking, brushing teeth, rinsing foods and mixing powdered infant formula.

To arrange water delivery to homebound or residents without transportation in the city of Benton Harbor, contact 211, which is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Phones that cannot contact 211 should contact 844-875-9211.

Brotherhood of All Nations, 1286 Monroe Street, has added opportunities for residents to get water on Wednesday, Nov. 24 between 4 and 6 p.m. and Saturday, Nov. 27 between 12 and 2 p.m. Residents will also be allowed to get additional cases of water this week as distribution sites will not be open on Thanksgiving or the Friday after Thanksgiving.

Additional water quantities will also be available during deliveries to the homebound or those without transportation.

The upcoming schedule for bottled water pickup is:

Wednesday, Nov. 24

  • Southwest Community Action Agency, 331 Miller Street, 3 - 6 p.m., (Water loaded into vehicles by volunteers)
  • Brotherhood of All Nations, 1286 Monroe Street, 4 - 6 p.m.

Saturday, Nov. 27

  • Brotherhood of All Nations, 1286 Monroe Street, 12 - 2 p.m.
  • Harbor of Hope Seventh-Day Adventist Church, 769 Pipestone Street, 4 - 6 p.m. 

Sunday, Nov. 28

  • Abundant Life Church of God, 693 Columbus Avenue, 3 - 5 p.m.
  • Brotherhood of All Nations, 1286 Monroe Street, 4 - 6 p.m.

Monday, Nov. 29

  • Southwest Community Action Agency, 331 Miller Street, 10 a.m. - 2 p.m. (Self-service)
  • Abundant Life Church of God, 693 Columbus Avenue, noon - 2 p.m.

Tuesday, Nov. 30

  • Abundant Life Church of God, 693 Columbus Avenue, noon - 2 p.m.
  • Ebenezer Baptist Church, 214 E. Britain Avenue, 4 - 6 p.m.

The ongoing response in Benton Harbor includes the city, Berrien County Health Department, local community organizations, MDHHS and the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy. This action is part of an accelerated, across-the-board effort to reduce the risk of exposure to lead in drinking water while the city replaces all lead service lines.

Additional dates and locations for bottled water pick up will be added to make sure community needs are met. Information will be posted on Michigan.gov/MiLeadSafe.

To ensure the continued success of bottled water distribution locations in Benton Harbor and to recognize the city residents who have been stepping up to donate their time and talent, the State of Michigan has partnered with local agencies to pay city residents who work at state-supported bottled water distribution sites. Individuals who want to serve as community ambassadors to help distribute water should connect with an established distribution site. Individuals or groups who want to serve as unpaid volunteers can sign up on the United Way's online platform.

MDHHS is engaging in a long-term effort to eliminate lead action level exceedances, educate communities on the effects of lead in drinking water, and remove lead service lines. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer called for the replacement of lead service lines in Benton Harbor in 18 months and the Whitmer-Gilchrist Administration has provided just under $20 million to Benton Harbor to speed up their service line replacement timeline.  

There is no cost to City of Benton Harbor residents for lead service line replacement. To assist with assuring the work can be completed as soon as possible, residents are encouraged to complete the Water Service Line Replacement Agreement available online. Contractors cannot begin work on any property without property owner authorization. Completed forms can be returned to Abonmarche, 95 West Main Street, Benton Harbor, MI 49022 or emailed to bvasher@abonmarche.com.

These efforts also include recently approved funds to remove lead from homes in the city. Families living in Benton Harbor can apply for this service by filling out and mailing in an application that is available online. Residents also can call 866-691-5323 to obtain information. 

For questions about lead, MDHHS can be reached at 866-691-5323 Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. - 5 p.m.

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