Grant program to reimburse nonprofits for expenses related to Jackson water crisis

Rev. Jill Buckley and a staffer at Stewpot Community Services share a laugh.
Rev. Jill Buckley and a staffer at Stewpot Community Services share a laugh.(WLBT)
Published: Sep. 23, 2022 at 4:42 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Stewpot Community Services was hit hard by Jackson’s recent water crisis, but not in the way you would think.

“We have not used the city’s water for several years. We give out bottled water at our shelters, in our kitchen, in our children’s and teens’ programs,” said Executive Director Jill Buckley. “The main expense for us, during the water crisis, has been using paper goods. The cost of paper goods has increased dramatically over the past year, and we had pretty much decreased our use of paper goods to as little as we possibly could over the last four months.”

But during the water crisis...

“We couldn’t wash dishes, so we ended up having to use a lot of paper goods, and we had to buy food for our kitchen that didn’t require a lot of cooking,” she said. “We have a very creative staff that knows how to use what is available to make a good meal, but it was a lot more challenging than usual.”

Stewpot is one of many charities and religious organizations in Jackson that could benefit from a new rapid response grant being offered by the Community Foundation for Mississippi.

Friday, the foundation announced that it would make available mini-grants between $200 and $2,000 to help nonprofits that were impacted by Jackson’s water crisis. Grants will help reimburse charities for expenses that occurred during the crisis, which began on July 29 and went through September 15, according to the foundation’s social media post.

Foundation President and CEO Jane Alexander said nonprofits are often overlooked during crises, something she and her staff realized during the COVID-19 pandemic. “The interruption of business for a not-for-profit means working twice as hard for half the money,” she said. “You have more people showing up with more needs, and we’ve seen all these nonprofits rise for the occasion. We didn’t feel they should have to pay for ice and water out of their pockets.”

To qualify, nonprofits must be based in the city of Jackson or another area served by Jackson’s water system. They also must have been impacted by the boil water notice and the subsequent failure of the system. The deadline to apply is Wednesday, October 12, at 11:59 p.m. Awards will be announced in early November, the Foundation’s website states.

The grants are being funded through donations made to the foundation, gifts that began pouring in at the start of the crisis. “We activated our Community Disaster, Relief, and Recovery Fund the day after the crisis started,” Alexander explained. “We received contributions from all over the country, mostly from individuals who knew of the problem and wanted to help.”

The Mississippi State Department of Health imposed a boil water notice for all customers on Jackson surface water on July 29, after tests revealed high levels of turbidity in samples taken.

Turbidity is the cloudiness of the water. The higher the turbidity, the greater the chance that it contains disease-causing pathogens not killed during the treatment process.

On August 29, Gov. Tate Reeves announced the state would take over operations at the O.B. Curtis Water Treatment Plant after equipment failures there led to a loss in water/water pressure for customers across the city and in Byram. Curtis, Jackson’s main treatment facility, serves about 43,000 connections.

The city announced that pressure had been restored to most customers on September 4. Days later, on September 15, Reeves announced that the boil water notice could be lifted.

Buckley was unsure how much the crisis cost Stewpot but said accounting staffers began crunching the numbers Friday after the Community Foundation announced the grant.

“I got word about the grant this morning,” she said. “It’s going to be super helpful for us.”

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