Grassroots Revolution: 8 Resident-Run Nonprofits Making a Difference in the Flint Community

Photo via City of Flint

By Lisa Green

October 19, 2022

Flint has seen some hard times, but its residents are helping the city grow back stronger than ever. These are eight noteworthy resident collaborations creating a brighter future in the Vehicle City.

MICHIGAN—Flint is all about community support—and it’s not all about water, either.

Though the Flint Water Crisis has ramped up humanitarian efforts in the city, plenty of nonprofit causes have existed there long before the city became a national headline. These are just a few community nonprofits working to make a big difference for the city they love.

Neighborhood Engagement Hub

The Neighborhood Engagement Hub is a community collaboration designed with one main goal—invest in Flint’s neighborhoods to make them better for the people who live there.

Photo via Facebook

One of NEH’s biggest draws is the Community Tool Shed, a lending library for things such as landscaping equipment and power tools. Community members use these tools to help eliminate blight, as well as maintain their properties, and local parks and gardens. Longtime Flint resident and US Air Force veteran Hurbert Pitts serves as both the caretaker of the Community Tool Shed, and as a friendly face for the nonprofit.

NEH also has a focus on preserving information and history about Flint’s neighborhoods—primarily through a Neighborhood Mapping Project with current neighborhood boundaries, neighborhood association contacts and meeting times.

Additionally, the group has worked with the University of Michigan and other community groups to form the Flint Neighborhood History Project, which is designed to create physical and digital archives, and host exhibits of historical information about Flint’s neighborhoods.

NEH also hosts community clean-up events and supports other neighborhood groups with projects of their own—like the popular PorchFest event on the north side of the city.

Visit the group’s Facebook and Instagram pages for more information.

Flint River Watershed Coalition

This is an organization that definitely cares about the quality of Flint’s water—but not in the way you might expect. The Flint River Watershed Coalition is devoted to protecting, promoting, and improving the ecosystem encompassing the Flint River. This includes not only the water quality of the Flint River itself, but also ensuring it’s protected as a habitat.

Photo via Flint River Watershed Coalition (flintriver.org)

The Flint River Watershed Coalition educates the public through a variety of programs, such as its “Our Water” activities, which are aimed at preventing stormwater pollution. The coalition also leads community clean-ups, group bike rides, and local kayak ventures.

The Flint River got a bad rap during the Flint Water Crisis, but the Watershed Coalition is here to set the record straight. The river is still a healthy ecosystem that needs protection.

Visit the group’s Facebook and Instagram pages for more information.

Studio on the Go

Flint native Pharlon Randle was a school bus driver by day and music producer by night. His two passions came together after a classroom demonstration of his audio equipment. Soon enough, he was volunteering his musical talents everywhere. Now, it’s a whole nonprofit.

Photo via Facebook

For over 15 years, Studio on the Go has been providing unique creative learning experiences to Flint students. So far, Randle’s mobile studio has visited over 100 schools in the Flint area to teach children how to play instruments, write songs, record music, and operate sound equipment.

The nonprofit program specifically focuses on creating opportunities for at-risk youth through after-school programs and summer camps. Recently, the offerings have even expanded to include radio, video, photography, and social media.

Visit the group’s Facebook page for more information.

Edible Flint

As grocery store prices increase, equitable access to local food can become precarious—especially for the most vulnerable populations who live among us.

Photo via Facebook

This dire problem is exactly what Edible Flint aims to address. The collaboration is designed to support Flint residents in growing and accessing healthy foods. Produce grown in their gardens are donated to volunteers and neighborhood residents. The nonprofit also provides gardening starter kits and classes for Flint residents to get started with their own gardens.

Visit the group’s Facebook and Instagram pages for more information. 

The Disability Network

About 90% of the board and team at the Disability Network self-identity as having a disability. And they’re committed to leading by example, and taking a seat at the table to expand accessibility and inclusion for residents with disabilities in Flint and Genesee County.

Photo via Facebook

The Disability Network’s goal is to help people with disabilities live independently and be self-sufficient. This includes offering employment services—like help with resumes and interviews. The group also helps nursing home residents transition to living independently.

The group’s “TDN Connect” program also helps people with disabilities learn independent skills such as cooking, crafting, and exercise. One of its most successful fundraisers is “Over the Edge Flint,” a chance to raise cash by repelling down the side of a downtown building.

Visit the group’s Facebook and Instagram pages for more information. 

Communities First Inc.

Communities First Inc. is a Black-founded and Black-led organization devoted to building healthy communities with a framework of racial equity and social justice. The group focuses on a variety of projects—like affordable housing, economic development, and green energy. 

Photo via Facebook

One recent initiative, Foodie Commons, is a developing renovation project in an old flower shop. Communities First intends for the building to serve as a community space, complete with an outdoor stage, covered seating, and green space. There, the group plans to host public art performances, cross-cultural exploration events, and other community events.

Its “Culture Shock” program aso offers art and cultural experiences to individuals and families that otherwise might not have access to them—like its recurring family-friendly outdoor movie night series during the summer, aptly named “Movies Under the Stars.” 

Visit the group’s Facebook and Instagram pages for more information. 

MADE Institute

MADE is an acronym—Money, Attitude, Direction, and Education.

Photo via Facebook

These four resources drive this nonprofit group to support marginalized communities—primarily at-risk youth and formerly incarcerated people in Flint—who are impacted by violence and the school-to-prison pipeline. MADE’s primary mission? To provide equal access to education, employment, and community participation across the city.

With data-driven approaches, MADE seeks to meet the needs of returning citizens to reduce their chance of violating parole or committing another crime—including with care packages and transitional housing. The group also offers trade skill training to help with employment.

One example in action: MADE’s partnership with The Porch Project, a neighborhood revitalization program that teaches new skills and led to 100 renovated porches last year.

MADE Institute is also building and expanding its “Self-Made Ventures” program, which supports returning citizens who want to explore a new life of local entrepreneurship.

Visit the group’s Facebook and Instagram pages for more information. 

Flint Handmade

For some, crafting can be a pathway to entrepreneurship. For others, it’s just art. Flint Handmade loves has options for both—and everything in between. Equitable access is key.

Photo via Facebook

Flint Handmade started as an independent craft fair inspired by other craft fairs in Detroit. In the 15 years since it was founded, though, the group has expanded to include all kinds of community events and workshops. Flint Handmade also prioritizes equitable representation—ensuring that at least 20% of its featured artists are people of color.

The group also hosts craft markets, such as the recent Halloween Craft Market, as well as craft supply swaps, coloring book events for the community, and a knitting club dubbed the “Yarn Brigade,” which donates its knitted and crocheted items to those who need them most.

Visit the group’s Facebook and Instagram pages for more information. 

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