Quenching thirst

A Seymour man was devastated after hearing about the recent lead-contaminated water crisis in his hometown of Flint, Michigan.

So he did the only thing he could think of to do to help — he collected cases of bottled water.

Andre Miller, along with his family, reached out to friends and the Seymour community to help support the cause and last weekend delivered more than 35,000 donated bottles of water directly to Flint families.

“We went door-to-door for two days and handed out water,” Miller said. “It’s terrible. Kids without water and parents not knowing what to do.”

Miller said he was overwhelmed by and thankful for all of those in Seymour who stepped up to help, including Brooklyn Pizza Co. and the Seymour Owls basketball program.

“It was massive,” he said of the response. “The community did well in such a short time period, and it is so appreciated.”

At first, Miller said he was going to use his own finances to do what he could, but he thought there would be other people willing to get on board.

“I woke up and knew I had to do anything I could to help,” he said.

He hopes last weekend’s delivery is the first of many more deliveries of water from Seymour.

Miller took his son, Seymour High School junior Jordan Miller; daughter, Jamya Miller, a Seymour Middle School student; and nephew, Seymour senior Toriek Miller, along with him on the trip so they could experience what it’s like to lend a helping hand to those in need.

“Even just one bottle of water is so appreciated,” Andre Miller said. “We had people that broke down and cried that someone would take the time to help them out.”

Andre Miller spent 25 years living in Flint before moving here in 1997. He still has family in the area and said he can’t believe what has happened there.

Located 66 miles northwest of Detroit, Flint has a population of 102,434, making it the seventh largest city in Michigan.

In April 2014, the city changed its water source from water treated by the Detroit Water and Sewage Department to the Flint River, which resulted in lead contamination and a serious public health hazard to residents.

Lead from aging pipes leached into the water supply, causing the water to have extremely elevated levels of lead.

Currently, many residents are without tap water to drink, cook with, bathe and wash clothes and dishes in, unless they have bottled water or water filters installed, Andre Miller said.

“And a lot of people in the intercity areas can’t afford that,” he said.

An estimated 9,000 children in Flint have been affected by lead poisoning and are experiencing health problems.

Exposure to lead can cause abdominal pain, constipation, depression, fatigue, headaches, loss of appetite, attention problems and memory loss, irritability, pain or tingling in the hands and feet, weakness and general nauseousness or sickness, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Higher levels of lead exposure may cause anemia, kidney and brain damage and even death.

“It’s amazing that people weren’t even acknowledging the problem or even knew about it,” Miller said.

Now, Miller said his heart hurts for the people of Flint.

“I had to do something about it. We’re supposed to take care of each other,” he said.

And he wants to do more.

“I’ll go every weekend if I have to. They need help,” he said. “I can’t imagine what they are going through.”

At a glance

Andre Miller said he is still accepting donations of cases of bottled water, which can be delivered to Brooklyn Pizza Co., 753 W. Second St., Seymour. He also is hoping to get a warehouse or storage facility to store donations in and someone to help him organize the collection.

To get involved, call Miller at 812-927-0709.

Author photo
January Rutherford is a reporter for The (Seymour) Tribune. She can be reached at jrutherford@tribtown.com or 812-523-7069.