By Susan Bromley
Last year, Jan Pasteiner led youth on a mission trip more than 500 miles south of here in Tennessee.
This year, they offered their help to those in need less than 20 miles to the north in Flint.
“We have neighbors that are 10 miles from us that are homeless,” said Pasteiner, an Ortonville resident and youth leader at Lakeview Community Church in Goodrich. “Homelessness is right in our backyard. There are people in this community that don’t have running water, electricity, a bed to sleep in. We need to take the time to open our eyes and just look around us— there is so much need right here in Ortonville and Goodrich and if we just do the simple things, smile, open doors, carry groceries out— we can make a difference. You don’t have to go far to find someone in need or do a lot to meet that need.”
Pasteiner, joined by three other adults and 15 teenagers from Lakeview Community Church, found that need in Flint, and rose up to meet it from July 18-22. They were motivated by the water crisis suffered by Flint, which began in April 2014, when the City of Flint began providing residents with water from the Flint River as a way to save money. The corrosive water, which was left untreated, leached lead from pipes for more than a year, poisoning many of those who drank the water. The city has since switched back to getting water treated from the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department, which sources it from Lake Huron and the Detroit River, but concerns remain and churches and other non-profit organizations continue to accept bottled water donations to distribute to city residents.
The Lakeview group donated numerous cases of water to a church in the city, also using one of their mission days to distribute the water they’d donated, as well as dozens more cases of water, to those in need.
“I really enjoyed seeing all the happy faces lifting water into vehicles, it was wonderful to see how happy the people were and the kids, too,” said Kyle Morford,18, a 2016 Waterford Mott graduate. “Doing something close to home helps people around us. There is still a major problem there and we are showing them we care. Some areas are better, but the lower class areas are having a harder time living. I’m happy we did that and helped to give many smiles on people’s faces in only five days.”
Beside the water distribution, the group also sorted and packaged nearly 20,000 pounds of food at the Food Bank of Eastern Michigan, including canned goods and other non-perishables, as well as baked goods, milk, eggs and cheese. They went to Anthony Market Florist, where they put together vases of fresh flowers and delivered them to the Carriage Town Women and Children’s Shelter and YWCA while the women who live there were out working or receiving vocational training, and left the flowers on their dressers to “make them feel loved and know that they are thought of,” said Pasteiner.
On one of the mission days, they worked with Catholic Charities, with half the group working in the soup kitchen, preparing lunches of beef stew, macaroni and cheese, carrots and fresh green salad for the 150-200 homeless and low-income people that seek meals there daily. The remainder of the mission group worked in the community closet in the upper part of the building, sorting clothing and household donations.
“The kids got a good picture of life and what people have to do in desperate situations,” said Pasteiner.
They did a similar task at Carriage Town, sorting donations as well as cleaning tables used in a summer program for children, and working in a vegetable garden. The group also played games with children at the East Side Mission, which hosts a church program for kids with water relay games, face painting, jump rope, hula hoops, snacks and storytime.
The mission was wrapped up on Friday, not in Flint, but at the For-Mar Nature Preserve in Burton, where they pulled out invasive species and did mulching and yardwork in the butterfly garden. The week was a successful one for the group, which camped in Vassar nightly and was bussed to their mission sites.
“The kids were workhorses, I didn’t have to ask them twice to do anything,” said Pasteiner. “We wanted to work and do what needed to be done, we wanted to serve and meet needs… I think we’re going to go back next year. I hope the kids learned they have such a blessed life and cannot take things for granted and not to judge someone because of their circumstances. It could be any one of us tomorrow that could be in that position and I don’t want them to hesitate to give a hand up to someone who needs it.”
Roxanne Marlow, a Brandon High School sophomore, was glad those they helped were close to home.
“In Flint, you know what you did makes a difference,” she said. “I learned that I can be a lot more helpful than I thought I could. Not everyone is OK, a lot of people need help and I can make a difference not sitting at home watching TV, I can go out and make a difference. It felt great, it was amazing, and the people we helped were so nice.”