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Michigan will pay Benton Harbor residents and sites distributing bottled water

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Posted at 5:12 PM, Oct 28, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-28 17:12:02-04

BENTON HARBOR, Mich. — The State of Michigan will start paying local agencies and residents who work at state-supported bottled water distribution sites retroactive to Oct. 1, 2021.

Staff will be known as community ambassadors and be paid $15 hourly. Ambassadors must live within city limits and be approved by the community organization they intend to work with according to the State of Michigan.

“Benton Harbor residents have stepped up to help one another as the state provides free bottled water to the city to reduce the risk of exposure to lead in their drinking water,” said Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Director Elizabeth Hertel. “Ensuring that residents are compensated for their time is a priority for the state and will help ensure a sustainable, long-term solution and is the right thing to do.”

Distribution sites will be responsible for recruiting, managing, and paying the ambassadors who serve at their site, and organizers of each distribution location will review the credentials of the potential ambassadors before hiring them authorities report.

“The residents of Benton Harbor are taking action to help their neighbors access safe drinking water by working with the state to distribute free bottled water day in and day out,” said Benton Harbor Mayor Marcus Muhammad. “These ambassadors for their community deserve to be compensated for their tireless efforts, and I am proud that we are valuing their service. Together, bottled water will continue to be provided indefinitely and we look forward to start moving dirt to replace 100% of lead service lines in an accelerated timeframe of 18 months.”

Some members of the community, such as Ebenezer Baptist Church pastor Rev. Brian Clayborn, support the ambassador program and plan to provide bottled water.

“The community has truly come together to help one another,” Clayborn said. “I had one lady call Tuesday who is a cancer survivor, and she stated that she couldn’t lift any water, but said that if there was anything she could do, she was willing. So, she came out Tuesday and worked for about three hours passing out forms for people to sign.”

One of the volunteers, Diane Youn, worked at Ebenezer and has assisted at other distribution locations alongside other members of the community.

“What really has been most rewarding has been seeing the community collaborate,” said Young, a lifelong city resident who is a Business Resource Network success coach for Michigan Works! “It’s working together for the greater good of the community. It’s great to see the diversity. Every age, color, gender. We’re just all coming together to take care of the city residents.”

Those interested in becoming community ambassadors can do so by connecting with a distribution site. People wanting to serve as unpaid volunteers are encouraged to sign up online.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) and volunteers had provided more than 100,000 cases of free bottled water at community distribution sites and deliveries to residents who are homebound or lack access to transportation authorities' report.

A schedule for bottled water pickup can be found below:

Friday, Oct. 29

  • Southwest Community Action Agency, 331 Miller Street, 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. (Self-service)

Saturday, Oct. 30

  • Boys & Girls Club of Benton Harbor, 600 Nate Wells Sr. Drive, 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.
  • Harbor of Hope Seventh-Day Adventist Church, 769 Pipestone Street, 4 – 6 p.m.

Sunday, Oct. 31

  • 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. 1

  • 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. 2

  • 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.
  • Ebenezer Baptist Church, 214 E. Britain Avenue, 4 – 6 p.m.     

Dates and more locations for bottled water pickup will be posted online.

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