When My City visited the Flint Development Center recently, the halls were quiet. And at its current location – the renovated Bunche Elementary at 4121 Martin Luther King Ave. in the city’s north end – quiet is a rare thing. “At 4pm, it gets loud around here,” says FDC Program Manager Tamika Boxley. “Once the basketballs start bouncing, the drums start going and the kids show up, it can get a little crazy!”
Opened to the public in 2018 through help from the Ruth Mott Foundation, the FDC hosts multiple after-school programs for Flint children. Through the Evergreen Community Development Initiative, started by Evergreen Missionary Baptist Church pastor Daniel Smith in 2015, the FDC started with the mission “to provide facilities where the residents of Flint and Genesee County can safely engage in recreational, social, educational, cultural, community service, civic and governmental activities.” For years, it has worked with a multitude of partners such as the Flint YMCA, 100k Ideas and The Crim Fitness Foundation to provide a home for programs and opportunities for the area’s kids and adults. Currently, the FDC is the home for the Flint Flames basketball program, African-American Drum & Dance, Tapology, SIPI, and the Flint Community Water Lab. Other organizations share or rent space in the building, such as 100k Ideas, Flint YMCA and others.
“We are still trying to acquire funding to finish through phase three, which would open up the rest of the building.”
Tamika Boxley, FDC Program Manager
The FDC itself offers programming, as well. The Literacy Lab/Digital Library is a place open to members of the community where a person can receive tutoring and help with research, as well as a place where children can add to their education after school hours. Soni Sparks works as the literacy coach and assists those in the lab with any questions they may have. “A lot of our kids get education online,” she says. “We are here to help them through their classroom work and homework, if needed.” In the summer months, the FDC offers a well-attended youth summer learning camp, basketball camps and other opportunities such as bird-watching, bee-keeping, and nature walks in adjacent Max Brandon Park. The FDC also provides activities for senior community members, such as Bingo, and works with the Foster Grandparent organization which provides a positive environment for seniors to interact with area youth.
For adults, the FDC holds resume-writing workshops and provides on-the-job training, and for aspiring entrepreneurs, the FDC works in conjunction with Metro Community Development to provide business planning and development workshops. Last summer, the FDC held their inaugural Flint First Entrepreneur Pitch Competition sponsored by 100k Ideas, Metro Community Development, City of Flint, Huntington Bank, and Community Navigator. The competition provided classes for those looking to start or expand their current business and at the end, three pitch competition winners shared up to $10,000 in grant funding for their business.
Always a big part of the local community, the FDC hosts a yearly Trunk or Treat experience, a Thanksgiving turkey giveaway, and a Community Day celebration in July. “We used to work with the Genesee County Land Bank and the Neighborhood Engagement Hub to provide community service opportunities for youth during the summer,” says Boxley. “We had them clean up plots or mow grass, and each of them would earn a small stipend. It was successful – I would like to get something like that started again.”
The McKenzie Patrice Croom Flint Community Water Lab
The Flint Community Water Lab, housed at the FDC, is the first of its kind in the nation. It acts as a local resource for Flint and Genesee County residents with water quality concerns to get their water tested for free. “We are currently able to test for lead, copper, arsenic, chromium, cadmium and aluminum,” explains lab Analytical Chemist, Cassidy Goyette. For Flint residents who are worried about their water quality, the process is free and easy. (The fee is $30 for County residents outside of the city). Simply call the lab at 810.228.3240 and arrange a date and time for sample retrieval – the lab staff will come to you. Analysis takes approximately 2-3 weeks, and the lab will call with results and offer advice, if needed. “It’s important for people to know that after they set up an appointment for testing, they cannot run their water at all for six hours before sample retrieval,” adds Goyette. “We always advise that they stock up before the retrieval appointment with water that may be needed for drinking, showering, etc.” Lately, the lab has not run into high concentrations of metals; but when they do, it is often the same culprit. “People aren’t changing their filters,” states Goyette. “A water filter should be changed every 2-3 months. We’ve had some people who haven’t changed their filters in years.” “The entire apparatus should be switched out every 2-3 years, itself,” interjects Outreach Coordinator, Daryl Sparks. The Flint Community Water Lab includes Sparks, Candice Mushatt (Director), Michael Harris (Supervisor), Cassidy Goyette, Jenna Light (Lab Technician).
With everything it currently offers and provides for the community, the Flint Development Center can be considered a valuable resource; however, it is capable of so much more. “We are only through phase two of our renovation,” says Boxley. “We are still trying to acquire funding to finish through phase three, which would open up the rest of the building.” At the completion of phase 3, the FDC would be able to offer more and larger classrooms, more programs and more social services. “At one point, we had the funding through the Ruth Mott Foundation,” Boxley explains, “but costs have changed. We are looking into ways to hold a fundraiser in the future.”
If you would like to help the FDC complete the Bunche Elementary renovation, please contact the organization at 810.422.9833.
The FDC is here to benefit the community in as many ways as possible and is looking to expand. For more information, visit flintdc.org. There is also a constant need for after-school and summer volunteers. For more information about programming, space rental or volunteer opportunities, call 810.422.9833.
To set up an appointment with the Flint Community Water Lab, call 810.228.3240.