Mott Foundation hoping for ‘dramatic results’ in Flint

Jennifer Chambers
The Detroit News

There was no more watching from the sidelines, C. S. Mott Foundation president Ridgway H. White said.

Not after tests revealed that some children in Flint had elevated lead levels since the switch from Detroit’s water system in April 2014.

It was time for the Mott Foundation to step in and help in a way few organizations can: in just a matter of days, it made a $4 million grant to help defray the cost to reconnect Flint with the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department, which ultimately will cost $12 million. Gov. Rick Snyder on Thursday announced the plan, which also includes $6 million from the state and $4 million from the city of Flint..

“Flint has been dealing with water issues for the past 18 months. We’ve looked at it and merely monitored. It’s not traditional for philanthropy to get involved in government,” White said Thursday afternoon.

“But after last week when the lead levels in children study was released, we felt we couldn’t sit on the sidelines and watch,” he said.

So White called Snyder and Flint Mayor Dayne Walling last week to offer the assistance of the foundation, a private grant-making organization with $2.7 billion in assets that in 2014 provided 400 grants totaling more than $101 million.

“We always try to innovate as a foundation,” White said. “This is moving fast ... and we hope we will see dramatic results.”

Established in 1926 in Flint by its namesake automotive pioneer Charles Stewart Mott, the foundation focuses most of its time and money on civic engagement, the environment, helping low- and moderate-income children and young adults access education and the Flint community.

It is also an international foundation that makes grant to South Africa, South America, Central and Eastern Europe and Russia in its civil society and environment programs.

Much of its focus is locally. Last week the foundation awarded a $100,000 grant to the United Way of Genesee County to provide free water filters to Flint residents who are concerned about lead in their drinking water.

White said he hopes the $4 million grant will return safe, clean drinking water to Flint.

“With all the testing going on we are going to have the most tested water in the country and we hope it’s the most safe water at the end of the day,” he said.