Flint problem solvers: Two hours time, a toolkit and tons of resources

Flint problem solvers: Two hours time, a toolkit and tons of resources
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Safety, blight, abandoned homes. These are a few of the challenging issues that Flint residents deal with. And there is one dynamic group that helps find answers.

Flint Neighborhoods United, or FNU, the nonprofit, grassroots organization and its president, Carma Lewis, seek solutions constantly. It’s what they do. The organization, composed of community groups and neighborhood associations, has as its goal making Flint’s neighborhoods a better place to come home to.

Flint Neighborhoods United helps with multiple issues, from basic services like spring cleanups to helping community groups find funds and write grant proposals.

It’s been five years since Lewis started her involvement with FNU, first as a concerned citizen and now as its leader. Her work is well known in the community, and it’s making a difference.

Flint Neighborhood United President Carma Lewis is an ombudsman and advocate of Flint residents and neighborhood groups.

“There is power in numbers,” says Lewis.

This past Saturday, FNU held their monthly meeting in the basement of the Woodside Church on Court Street, their regular meeting place on the first Saturday of the month from 9:00 to 11:00 a.m.

The goal of the meetings is for Lewis to bring together as many neighborhood associations and community residents as possible and to give them a forum to voice their concerns. Doing so has helped her, and them, move the needle forward.

Philip Thompson, Manager, Community Outreach for the Flint & Genesee Chamber of Commerce, shakes the hand of Flint Fire Chief Barton at the meeting of Flint Neighborhoods United this past Saturday at Woodside Church. Photo by Alvin Brown

FNU helps with multiple issues, from basic services like spring cleanups to helping community groups find funds and write grant proposals. “We share information, we collaborate,” says Lewis resolutely.

Kevin Schronce from the City of Flint Planning and Development department, was on hand Saturday to present the Flint Property Portal, a new website put out by the city which serves as a mapping tool for property in all neighborhoods.Residents can type in an address and get information on a property in their area—whether a house is vacant, who owns a particular lot, the parcel number, virtually anything to know.

Kevin Schronce, of the City of Flint Planning and Development Department, presents the Flint Property Portal, a new platform which serves as a mapping tool to help residents find a wide variety of information on city property, including identifying the owners of blighted property. Photo by Alvin Brown

Flint’s Fire Chief Barton, attended as well to speak about firefighter appreciation day and about school students who have paid the various stations a visit so far this year.

The residents in attendance came mostly from neighborhood associations, such as Bellinger Square Neighborhood Association and their New Community Church. A woman from Habitat For Humanity was there to discuss the water assurance program, a service that helps residents set up an appointment to have their water heater, faucets, and shower heads assessed for lead—and replaced, if necessary.

Tracy Joseph from the Flint & Genesee Chamber of Commerce talked about economic opportunities and the programs offered by the city and those run in conjunction with area and Federal organizations, such as the Small Business Development Center, the Small Business Revolving Loan Fund, and the Genesee Area Investment Network Individual Development Account, a matched savings account available to residents to help them purchase an eligible asset, such as a small business, tuition, or a home.

Flint & Genesee Chamber of Commerce Business Finance Manager Tracy Joseph introduces the economic programs offered by the city and those run in conjunction with area and Federal organizations. Photo by Alvin Brown

For residents and small businesses, having information like this at their fingertips is vital. Lewis’s day job is Community Outreach Coordinator for the City of Flint. She knows all too well how great the need in the neighborhood is.

“This city is my home. I’m a part of it. This is my chance make a difference.”

On top of everything else that she does, Lewis publishes Flint: Our Community,Our Voice, a monthly newspaper with a circulation of 4,000 along with their website, flintneighborhoodsunited.org.

How does she, and FNU, do it all? Her answer reflects her group’s team spirit.

“We are all in this together. We’re workin’ it, we’re workin’ it.”

ABOUT FLINT NEIGHBORHOODS UNITED

Kevin Schronce points out some of the highlights of the new Flint Property Portal to resident Vivien Gales at Saturday’s meeting. Photo by Alvin Brown

Flint Neighborhoods United is a coalition of block club, neighborhood association and crime watch captains and presidents (or their designated representative) who come together on the first Saturday of each month to share information and leverage their resources to create positive change in the Greater Flint community.

The group’s focus is from a city-wide perspective versus the focus of the individual members of a specific neighborhood or area within the city.

The group has three goals. They are:

  • Improve communication among and between stakeholders at all levels
  • Create and maintain an environment that supports safe and healthy neighborhoods
  • Re-establish a city-wide sense of community with a shared responsibility

For more information about Flint Neighborhoods United and its programs, visit flintneighborhoodsunited.org.

TheHUB’s special projects coordinators Stacy Swimp and Cindi Cook invite neighborhood residents to participate in the Savor the Flavor of Flint campaign coming 1.27.18
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