Bottles of Hope: Connecticut Operator Sends Water to Flint

It only takes one person, filled with compassion and ambition, to make a difference. Here's how one operator is helping the people of Flint, Michigan.
Bottles of Hope: Connecticut Operator Sends Water to Flint
Ken Hinson, a utility operator for The Metropolitan District-Hartford, Connecticut (MDC), started a grass-roots effort to collect cases of bottled water for the people of Flint, Michigan.

“I saw it on the news, and I just needed to do something.”

That’s what New Englander Ken Hinson said when he watched recent news coverage of the water crisis in Flint, Michigan. And even though the Midwest city is about 700 miles from Hinson’s home in Torrington, Connecticut, the water utility worker felt he had to do something.

In late April, he made his mission a reality — he and a busload of more than 50 volunteers caravanned to Flint with three semitrailer loads of fresh bottled water.

The inspiration
A few months ago, after watching the news about Flint’s water crisis, Hinson, a utility operator for The Metropolitan District-Hartford, Connecticut (MDC) and his girlfriend, Thursa, decided they wanted to help those in need of freshwater.

Hinson didn’t have any friends, families or contacts in Flint. Nor had he ever been to the city. Still, the problem resonated.

“The problem I had is that this is happening in the U.S.,” Hinson says. “I thought I had a lot of resources to make a difference. Due to the fact I work for a water company, you know, I knew there was something I could do out there.”

Hinson got on a plane to Flint, where he visited the water distribution centers, interviewing people in need. He learned a number of people couldn’t get to the distribution centers. Some residents in poorer communities didn’t have access to public transportation or, if they did, they couldn’t carry the heavy cases of water on the bus.

When he returned home, Hinson started a grass-roots effort to collect cases of bottled water to drive back to Flint, making sure it got in the hands of those most in need. He spread the word through local businesses and organizations, enlisting the help of local motorcycle clubs — joined together, they go by the name Just Us. His employee, MDC, offered to store pallets of water in the utility’s warehouse and also covered fuel costs for the trip. Local AFSCME unions also added support.  

“Kenneth exemplifies the spirit of community and helping people that is integral to all of MDC’s employees in the performance of their duties,” says MDC CEO Scott Jellison. “We are extremely proud of Ken’s accomplishments and how well he has represented the MDC.”

Kindness grows
Hinson planned to fill one semitrailer; instead, through volunteers and his outreach with local motorcycle clubs, he collected 3,000 cases of water — enough to fill three trucks. MDC authorized qualified personnel to help load the pallets, and the semitrailers were donated by Trantolo & Trantolo Law in Hartford.

“Once we arrive,” Hinson says, “we have a team of motorcycle clubs; we will distribute (water) house to house — three cases per house.”

Based on his first trip, Hinson said the deliveries will go to the north end of Flint, primarily low-income areas.

Hinson is looking forward to this trip, especially because he has a history of charitable work, including work with mentoring, grant writing and other charity events, especially those that help children.

“I’m always for helping people out,” he says. But instead of focusing his efforts in Connecticut, this time, he’s shipping bottled hope across the miles.  



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