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December 17, 2009

Contact: Carol D. Rugg, 810.238.5651,

Mott Foundation grants $1 million to bolster local safety-net services

FLINT, MICH. – Recognizing that a stressed local economy has left social services agencies in Genesee County facing record demand, the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation has awarded four special, year-end grants totaling $1 million to help meet requests for food, housing and utility assistance, and other safety-net services. The grants will be made to:

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Genesee County has seen its unemployment rate increase from 4.5 percent in 2000 to 17.5 percent in 2009. Within the City of Flint, unemployment currently exceeds 27 percent. Approximately 35 percent of Flint’s population is now living at or below federal poverty levels and the number of students qualifying for free and reduced lunches throughout Genesee County has risen from 43 percent to 55 percent.

“This has been a tough year for Flint and for Michigan and it is impossible to ignore the plight of so many of our neighbors who are struggling each day to make painful choices in this difficult economy,” said William S. White, Mott Foundation president. “While these grants do not create a systemic solution to unemployment and homelessness in Flint and Genesee County, they do represent an attempt to help individuals and families find a measure of stability and relief during a time of extreme duress.”

All four agencies have received significant support from Mott in the past several years, including $800,000 in 2006 to the food bank for warehouse expansion and refrigeration; almost $900,000 to the Shelter of Flint for general support and housing development; and more than $250,000 to NESK for capital improvements.

According to William E. Kerr, president of the Food Bank of Eastern Michigan, changes must be made to the organization’s current warehousing system to handle the heightened demand for food product.

“The food bank has outgrown its current warehouse system and is operating at only 70 percent efficiency,” he said. “Changing from our current inventory model to a complete warehouse management system would position us to move into the next decade with the capacity to increase distribution to aid communities in need.”

The addition of a new racking system to maximize food storage and work flow, along with upgrades to the food bank’s warehouse management software, would enable the organization to distribute 10 percent more food – resulting in 1.8 million more pounds of product being distributed in 2010.

The Salvation Army of Genesee County, which provides a wide variety of services to families in need, has taken the lead in providing specific services to those facing utility shut-offs, evictions and foreclosures. Salvation Army’s caseworkers will identify clients – particularly those for whom a payment is likely to resolve a problem and avoid foreclosure or eviction – and use funds from the Mott grant for rent or utility payments so they can remain in their homes.

At the North End Soup Kitchen, Mott funding will be used to provide a second hot meal daily. A side benefit to this new arrangement will be extended hours, according to John Manse.

“Our location is ideal for use as a winter warming station for north-end residents,” said Manse, who supervises the preparation and distribution of more than 57,000 hot meals and 125,700 sack lunches each year at NESK.

Like NESK, the Shelter of Flint, Inc. has seen a dramatic spike in requests for assistance. According to Gary Haggart, executive director of the shelter, 15 percent more clients could be served by developing a pre-screening process that would move them directly from waiting lists into more permanent housing.

The Mott grant will enable the shelter’s case management staff to use a pre-screening assessment to determine if at-risk families would be better served by circumventing the shelter system altogether through increased access to monetary resources and referrals to other housing programs. 

Grant dollars also will be used to expand the shelter’s adult and children’s literacy programs, working one-on-one with clients to identify and deal with specific educational, employment and life-skills development needs. 

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