Mott Foundation announces $160,000 in grants to support local health care workers during pandemic

A group of healthcare workers stand at a table filled with boxes of food.
Café Rhema, located in downtown Flint, partnered with Freedom Center in March to provide meals for health care workers at all three Genesee County hospitals. Photo: Joshua Spencer

Flint, Michigan — The Charles Stewart Mott Foundation made two grants totaling $160,000 to help health care workers in Flint and Genesee County stay safe and fed during the coronavirus pandemic.

A $100,000 grant will help University of Michigan-Flint keep its residence hall open to health care workers from Genesee County hospitals, giving them a welcoming, safe and convenient place to stay at no cost to them. A $60,000 grant will allow the Freedom Center to purchase more than 5,000 meals from Flint restaurants and have them delivered to local hospital workers.

“Our health care heroes are putting their lives on the line to keep other people safe and healthy,” said Ridgway White, Mott Foundation president and CEO. “We hope these grants will help to support them and also show our deep appreciation for what they’re doing for the community.”

UM-Flint is currently hosting nearly 30 health care professionals in its First Street Residence Hall. The university plans to utilize 30 to 60 rooms per night for health care personnel through June 7. The goal is to provide a comfortable place for health care workers to stay while keeping their families safe from potentially being exposed to the virus.

The grant will help with the cost of hiring a company that specializes in disinfecting services and biohazard cleaning to ensure rooms are clean and safe after each stay and meet Centers for Disease Control and Prevention COVID-19 guidelines. The grant also will help provide funding for linens, towels and building maintenance.

University of Michigan-Flint opened its First Street Residence Hall in early April to health care workers from Genesee County hospitals, giving them a safe and welcoming place to stay during the coronavirus pandemic. Thanks to a $100,000 grant from the Mott Foundation, this option is now available at no cost to those workers.
Photo: University of Michigan-Flint

“Providing a safe, clean space for these health care heroes during the pandemic is a great honor, and we are proud to open one of our residence halls for this important purpose,” said UM-Flint Chancellor Deba Dutta. “The steadfast partnership of the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation makes it possible for UM-Flint to fulfill its mission of service to the community at this critical time.”

Health care professionals who are interested will be able to sign up through a form at They also may call 810-237-6571 for more information.

Another need among health care workers in Genesee County is getting access to healthy foods while working long hours. In mid-March, the Freedom Center began partnering with Joshua Spencer, owner of Café Rhema in downtown Flint, and has since delivered almost 3,000 meals to hospital workers at Hurley Medical Center, McLaren Flint and Ascension Genesys Hospital.

The grant from the Mott Foundation will allow the organization to partner with more downtown Flint restaurants to deliver an additional 5,000 meals.

“A few short months ago, the church, small businesses, the medical field and residents were all separate groups with various gifts to share with the community. Today, because of the crisis of COVID-19, these various groups are uniting into one,” said Dena Wiegand, Freedom Center executive director of operations. “The Mott Foundation grant enables Freedom Center to bring more meals to our courageous health care workers and show them their importance to this community, while at the same time supporting Flint restaurants. In the end, those in need of medical care get better care, the local eateries not only get a boost but get to be a part of the solution to this crisis, and the local church gets to play our part in serving people united by this need.”

In addition to these two grants, the Mott Foundation has granted $500,000 to support the Greater Flint Urgent Relief Fund, established through the Community Foundation of Greater Flint and United Way of Genesee County, and $200,000 to the Food Bank of Eastern Michigan for emergency food support. All of these grants are intended to help address community needs during the pandemic.