To help ease the pain from what has become an ongoing nightmare for the people of Flint, Mich., the community of Buffalo, N.Y., has joined others from around the United States in an effort to bring some much-needed emergency relief to a city recently paralyzed by a contaminated water crisis of unimagined proportions. With dangerous levels of lead found in the city’s water supply, the citizens of Flint (population 102,400) have been struggling daily to find potable water for drinking, bathing, cooking and cleaning. The situation has become so dire that President Barack Obama on Jan. 16 declared a federal state of emergency in Flint.
As part of what has become a nationwide, grassroots response to the crisis – with organizations and individuals collecting and sending bottled water to Flint any way they can – a local church in Buffalo quickly organized its own water drive for Flint. Buffalo is the hometown of Rich Products Corporation and several of its subsidiaries, including ROAR Logistics, which has emerged as a key player in the relief effort coming out of Western New York.
Known as “Operation H2O: Feed the Need,” the mission in Buffalo to send clean water to the residents of Flint has been spearheaded by the local True Bethel Baptist Church and its pastor, Darius G. Pridgen. Within a matter of days, the hastily assembled water campaign spread from True Bethel’s congregation across the region. The community’s response has been overwhelming.
As so much bottled water – including individual donations from some of New York’s high-ranking state officials and other contributions from as far away as Ohio – arrived at True Bethel’s doorstep, it became obvious that, to get all of the precious cargo to Flint, the church’s bus alone could not adequately handle the load. That’s when ROAR, a leading third-party logistics provider and global freight forwarder, stepped in.
“When we heard that members of the congregation at True Bethel Church were planning to drive the water to Michigan themselves, we knew ROAR and our trucking partners could help handle the transportation duties for this vital operation,” said Robert Rich III, the President of ROAR Logistics Inc. “Transportation is our business and, as part of the Buffalo community, it only made sense for us to provide the logistics, manpower and expertise necessary to safely load and transport all of that clean water collected for the people of Flint.”
At True Bethel, Pastor Pridgen was elated upon receiving this offer of major logistical assistance. “We had taken in so many water donations, the campaign just grew much bigger than we ever could have imagined,” Pridgen explained. “Renting a truck ourselves to carry all that water to Flint would have been very expensive for the church. We just prayed God would somehow help us.”
The next thing they knew, True Bethel’s organizers were taking a call from Rich, who had just learned from his barber about the church’s transportation predicament. Said Pridgen: “Robert Rich immediately tracked us down and told us, ‘We will handle the transportation services for free. And if you need multiple trucks, we will provide you those, too. Whatever it takes, my company will handle it.’
“So, suddenly, we had room for more water than we ever expected to take to Flint, Michigan,” Pridgen continued. “It was overwhelming. It just shows what your trust in God can do. We are grateful and very thankful.”
More than 400,000 bottles of water so far have been trucked from Buffalo and Syracuse, N.Y., and handed out in Flint’s impoverished areas – neighborhoods that are home to many citizens who have not been able to get to the city’s official distribution stations for clean, usable water.
“This is roadside medicine and we hope that hearing about this effort will help inspire people everywhere to get engaged not only in the efforts to assist the citizens of Flint, but also in their own communities and in other communities in need around our country,” said Rich.
“The concept of ‘Bettering Our Communities’ has been a long-standing value at both Rich’s and ROAR Logistics,” he added, “but what we’ve been doing in this Flint situation goes beyond even that, to the matter of basic human compassion. We know there are thousands of families just a few hours from us who have been in desperate need of clean water, and we also know we can do something about it. As a top transportation service provider, we could not overlook this call to help provide one of life’s basic necessities.”
ROAR worked with George Campbell & Sons, a family owned, Saginaw, Mich.-based trucking company, to coordinate and defer the costs of transporting the bottled water from Buffalo and Syracuse to Flint. George Campbell & Sons is owned by Greg Causley, whose business philosophy is to be a company that first is involved with the community’s welfare and well-being. His motto is, “Take care of people first and then the business will follow.”
As “Operation H2O: Feed the Need” quickly ramped up, Robert Rich and ROAR added their voices to the public call, urging other Buffalonians and residents throughout Western New York to come together to help True Bethel help the residents of Flint. On social media, the hashtags #operationh2o and #h2o4Flint also helped boost the level of contributions. The combined efforts began attracting donations of not just small multipacks or cases of bottled water, but full pallets of water, including some from key ROAR customers. The campaign clearly had taken on a life of its own.
Before the cases upon cases of water were carefully loaded onto the large trucks procured by ROAR and George Campbell & Sons, there was one final order of business to take care of in Buffalo: During special masses at True Bethel Baptist Church, Pridgen and other pastors blessed every single bottle of water destined for Flint.
In addition to five fully loaded 18-wheelers, dozens of volunteers from True Bethel, as well as a group of volunteers from ROAR that included Robert Rich III, caravanned the roughly 275 miles from Buffalo to the beleaguered city to personally deliver the free water directly to the people. More trucks, more volunteers and more water deliveries from Western New York to Michigan are anticipated, Rich said.
“We’re committed to taking as much water as the Buffalo community can gather,” promised Rich as the bottles were being distributed in Flint. “Buffalo is known as the City of Good Neighbors, so I’m not sure we’re done with this operation, yet. As long as the water shows up, we’ll make sure it gets to Flint, even if that means getting more trucks. At ROAR, our goal is to deliver peace of mind.”