When the COVID-19 pandemic came to Detroit and things started to shut down, we at VEJ asked how we could help those in the most danger.
COVID-19 is dangerous. And as the days go on, it seems to be more dangerous to the health and lives of people who live around our Hope House & Gardens in Detroit.
But the virus is only part of the danger to people in our neighborhood.
So many of our neighbors lost their jobs over the last few weeks. With no money coming in, they add the dangers of homelessness, hunger, and thirst to the danger of disease. In fact, the disease becomes more of a danger to those who don't have things like good food to eat or running water to wash their hands. This is the situation "on the ground" in VEJ's Detroit neighborhood.
Where do you go to get food and water when you don't have money to pay for them?
If you're in the Brightmoor, Old Redford, or Riverdale neighborhoods, you go to a local food bank like Brightmoor Connection.
But I want you to think about this: The number of people going to food banks to get the food and water they need is four times what it was just one month ago. And it is likely to be even more than that in the weeks and months ahead.
That's another way of saying: For every one household that came to Brightmoor Connection for food and water a month ago, five or six households are coming now.
Stay with me.
Imagine you're Reverend Roslyn Bouier, Brightmoor Connection's executive director. Before this year started, you made a budget to buy food and water each month. To keep it simple, let's say you expected to spend $10,000 a month to feed your clients. Your donors gave you $10,000 of cash and donations to cover your monthly food budget.
But then COVID-19 and an economic collapse happened. Now it will take $50,000 or $60,000 a month to feed five or six times as many clients as you expected.
Where do you get that money?
And once you get the money, where do you get the food? Prices are higher now because the supply is smaller. Some items that used to be easy to get are now impossible to get.
So you face an awful situation: You have to turn away a lot of people who need food and water. You know that if people cannot drink and eat well and wash their hands, they are far more likely to get sick.
This is the situation in VEJ's neighborhood. This is the situation our friends at Brightmoor Connection face as they try to solve the problem.
This is why we've been asking our VEJ donors to support Brightmoor Connection. Over the last few weeks, we've been collecting cash donations from our donors and turning over 100 percent of the money to Brightmoor Connection to help them buy food and water now.
On behalf of Brightmoor Connection and the neighbors they feed, we at VEJ want to thank those who are giving to this work.
VEJ is going to keep raising money for Brightmoor Connection through the month of April. If you're looking to make a real difference and save lives, this is it. Click here to give in support of immediate food and water relief.
Once the early part of the COVID-19 crisis passes, the aftermath will keep on hurting people in our neighborhood. Households will be broken and weakened by COVID-19 deaths and disabilities. Income will not return soon enough because old jobs will not come back. Government assistance may not be up to the challenges or needs. We expect that the demand for food and water assistance will remain very high for months to come.
For that reason, VEJ is committing to a long-term partnership with Brightmoor Connection so that we can make sure people in our neighborhood get the food they need.
We will donate all of the produce we grow at Hope House & Gardens in 2020 to Brightmoor Connection. To make sure we grow more food to feed more people, we are making some changes to the garden:
We also made some changes to how we manage and source the garden. For example, this year all of our garden supplies are coming from Keep Growing Detroit (rather than from several different sources as in years past). Overall, our garden program should end up costing up to 50 percent less in 2020 than it did in 2019.
The bottom line is that we are planning and praying for our biggest harvest ever in 2020 so that our neighbors have the nutritious food they need to stay healthy.
We are going to need your help to do this. While our overall cost for gardening will go down by a lot in 2020, we still need to raise money to cover those costs.
So, on Tuesday, May 5 (a special worldwide "Giving Tuesday"), we will launch a "Hope House & Gardens Wish List Campaign" to raise materials, money, and volunteers for our garden program this year. While the gifts will go to our garden program, they are really for our neighbors who will be in need of food relief over the next few months.
Look for more details on this campaign over the next few weeks leading up to Giving Tuesday. We'll be taking gifts of cash, materials, skilled labor, and supplies (we'll publish a complete list of what we need in the next couple of weeks). For now, please think about what you would be happy to give.
I'm not going to beat around the bush: Giving money may be as hard as asking for it these days. As both the asker and someone who will be giving to the campaign, I'm a little nervous about being on both sides of the relationship.
But I know everyone who is reading this will want to help in whatever way they can.
Do you recall that last fall and winter, I announced that VEJ's theme for 2020 would be "We're All In This Together"?
And he we are: The whole world finding that out in a more painful and powerful way than we imagined even a few weeks ago.
We are all in this together. Now we have a chance to get us all out of it together.
Let's work to make sure that when we emerge from this crisis and its aftermath, we are bringing all of us to a way of life that is healthier, more fair, more just, and more sustainable than the one that gave us COVID-19.
Grace and peace,
BT Irwin, primus inter pares
Voices for Earth Justice