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‘Just keep y’all head up:’ Benton Harbor residents grateful for more cases of water

Benton Harbor church passes out dozens of cases to water, helping 48 families have clean water for the holidays.
Posted at 6:42 PM, Dec 24, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-24 19:05:06-05

BENTON HARBOR, Mich. — Water distributions in the past have been packed, recalled bishop James Atterberry. Vehicles lined up bumper-to-bumper, waiting in long lines to receive cases of water given by the state.

However, on Christmas Eve, in the back parking lot of Benton Harbor High School, over 48 vehicles drove through the water distribution line from noon to 3 p.m. Each of the drivers shouting ’thank you’ to the volunteers when they drove away.

Patricia Harris was one of them.

“It’s very helpful considering the lead and stuff that’s in the water and reduce the lead in people, especially the kids,” Harris said to FOX 17 while cases were placed in the back of her vehicle. “So, I mean it’s helpful. Very helpful.”

Harris picked up 12 cases for the seven people in her household, which includes kids and a three-month-old.

She said the current water crisis is affecting everyone.

“It’s impacting not just me. It’s impacting everybody,” Harris said. “You know, it’s good they took a step up to help, considering the situation and what’s going on.”

Currently, the city of Benton Harbor is enduring a lead water crisis. Residents told FOX 17 in the previous interviews that lead was detected in the water as far as back at 2018. In September this year, the state began distributing water to residents.

“We’re talking about years and years - and I’m just going to say it like I feel - of neglect of a community that has not had the resources and the things that they need to make sure this problem wouldn’t have happened,” said Bishop Atterberry. “So you’re not going to fix years like the water crisis — the lead in the water pipe — in a couple of months.”

Atterberry is the head pastor at The Brotherhood of All Nations Church of God in Christ in Benton Harbor. He and his members organized this event and others making sure residents get the water they need.

“We’ve been doing this for the past three months now working with the community, helping them with the water crisis in Benton Harbor,” said Atterberry. “We’re working with the state, Governor [Gretchen] Whitmer, along with the state workers here in the community. It just gives us inspiration to come out and be a blessing to others that we think that really need support and that’s what we’ve been doing.”

He said they had 11 skids and 84 cases of water, and helped 48 families on Friday.

Parents like Robert Muth was one them and he too, like Harris, was grateful.

“It’s a good thing, especially around the holidays and stuff you know. It’s really helpful,” Muth said while sitting in his vehicle as cases were being loaded in his trunk. “I mean everyday, everyday things, you know cooking [and] brushing teeth. I got two little ones in the back. It’s what we’re using it for right now.”

Over the last few months, Gov. Whitmer said she’d like to allocate $20,000,000 to replace all the lead pipes.

Atterberry is asking residents to have patience with this. It’s not going to happen overnight.

Patricia Harris agreed.

“Just keep y’all head up and be patient with them,” Harris said. “Let them do what they need to do. You don’t rush them ‘cause it takes time. Everything takes time.”