Flint Water Crisis Headlines Local News

Church help center featured on national TV providing aid during pandemic



Local churches are stepping up to the plate to help the community during the COVID-19 pandemic. For instance, the Greater Holy Temple has its R.L. Jones Outreach Center Monday-Thursday 7 a.m.-5 p.m. and is one of many churches featuring a COC HELP Center weekly. The COC HELP Center was featured on CNN, 60 Minutes and PBS, plus all the networks across the country with the Nestle Waters Company commercial beginning 2016 -2020.

The R.L. Jones Community Outreach Center provides food, clothing, personal care products, education, service referrals, water and much more. Their resources and services include the delivery of the food and personal items, as well as resource information and nutritional education.

The COC Help Center was established to support the residents of Flint with food and
water after the PODS were closed down by the state of Michigan 2017. The local
churches agreed to take on the responsibility after the Food Bank of Eastern Michigan
could no longer support it. The help centers are a division of the R. L. Jones Community Outreach Center A.K.A. COC on the campus of Greater Holy Temple Church.

The HELP Center, formerly managed and operated by the Food Bank of Eastern Michigan, features a food and water giveaway on Thursdays starting at 10 a.m.-2 p.m. or until supplies last. HELP Centers also offer water and food items Mondays at Bethel United Church at 10 a.m.-2 p.m. or until supplies last and Tuesdays at Ashbury United Methodist Church at 10 a.m.-2 p.m. or until supplies last.

The HELP Center offers drive thru water distribution on Thursdays and the R.L. Jones offers water distribution by delivery. Each family gets no less than six cases of water (typically 20 bottles or more per case) and no more than 8 cases. There are about 400-500 cars weekly at the HELP center. Now with the coronavirus, the R.L. Jones Outreach Center has increased its delivery and pickup to about 200-250 on Thursdays with the partnership of MTA’s Your Ride. The Your Rides are for those residents who have a need but no transportation right now because the buses aren’t running.

MDHHS only pays for the food which is distributed on Thursdays. The 18 pallets of water are donated by Nestle Waters Company.

“The COC delivers to more than 1,100 households per week regularly partnered with MTA’s Rides to Groceries,” Sandra S. Jones executive director of R. L. Jones Community Outreach Center.

“Now with the coronavirus, those numbers have increased by an additional 150-200,” Jones added. “The COC doesn’t offer water delivery with the exception of those residents who are 88 years old and up or to those who are blind, hearing impaired and or a serious disability because we don’t want them to wait in line for three to four hours on Thursdays.”

Now with the coronavirus, the delivery and pickup has increased to about 200-250 on Thursdays with the partnership of MTA’s Your Ride. The Your Rides are for those residents who have a need but no transportation right now because the buses aren’t running.

“The COC delivers to more than 1,100 households per week regularly partnered with MTA’s Rides to Groceries,” Jones said “Now with the coronavirus, those numbers have increased by an additional 150-200.”

The R.L. Jones Outreach Center and the HELP Centers are offer mitigating foods which are comprised of meat, starch, vegetables and fruit when available, dairy when available and a sweet snack when available.

“We purchase our food from the Food Bank of Eastern Michigan and try to stick to a balanced meal.”

In addition, the HELP Centers give away faucets and filters.

“We also have the COC-Resource Center which is comprised of social worker, health providers, insurance agencies, etc. Some companies are Genesee Health Systems, Oak Street Health, Genesee Health Plan, CHAP, Early Childhood Development, Meridian Insurance, AFlac and many others. We have a person assigned from the city who handles water filters and water filter replacements.”

The COC-Resource Center is closed during the pandemic.

“The job-readiness program to help those who don’t have any kind of skills to be prepared for a permanent job,” Jones said. “We are continuing to provide those services. However, during the pandemic, there are no jobs that they can be referred to now because the businesses are closed and streamlined.”

Jones said participants in the program are now working at the COC.

Other classes offered though the COC Help Center include food safety, inventory management, soft skills, nutritional classes (which are on hold), training on various types of equipment such as pallet jacks and forklifts, sales/customer service (at COC-Catherine’s Closet of Hope- and Carriage-Town Ministries which are limited because they limit the number of residents who can come in at a time) and building maintenance.

Many of those who have received services from the RL Jones Outreach Center and the HELP Center have described the services as wonderful and something they don’t know what they would do without in various University of Michigan studies.

The future goals for the HELP Center and for the RL Jones Outreach Center include remaining funded and for the various funders in Flint and the surrounding area to understand that basic needs are a necessity.

“The structure of the COC helps the workers have a sense of pride in what they’re doing,” Jones said. “Therefore it will definitely enhance their character and prepare them for a true future. Whereas, prior to working with us they have bounced around from job to job because many of them don’t have the skills which will afford them the ability to have pride in their personal accomplishments. Many of the funders don’t see our organization as a necessity. We are striving very hard to change the perception of how this industry is viewed. But our other objective is to help the youth and the older adults be able to hold a permanent job.”

Other local organizations currently supported by the HELP Center and the RL Jones Community Outreach Center include Church Of God In Christ, Inc., Greater Holy Template Ministries COGIC, Ruth Mott Foundation, Community Foundation of Greater Flint, United Way, Hamilton Community Health, Genesee Health Plan, Spina Family Foundation, Greater Flint Health Coalition, University of Michigan (MICHIR), Michigan State University and in-kind by Carriage Town Ministeries, Metropolitan Transit Authorities (MTA), Catholic Charities and Food Bank of Eastern Michigan.

For details about the R.L. Jones Community Outreach Center, call (810) 787-3960.

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