Flint, MI faces myriad problems that require urgent attention. The population has dropped from 200,000 in 1960 to under 100,000 today. More than one-third of remaining citizens live below the poverty line. The unemployment rate is almost 10%. One-third of all property in the city is considered abandoned or blighted. For three consecutive years from 2010-2012, Flint had the highest per capita rate of violent crimes in the country. The city was recently under a state of emergency because of high levels of lead in drinking water and elevated blood lead levels in children.
But there’s an untold story in Flint, of neighbors helping neighbors, of people of all backgrounds serving their community, and of alignment between the city, nonprofit partners, funding partners, schools, and residents to champion service as a strategy to reinvent the community. At the end of 2013, over 5,000 community residents came together and outlined a new Master Plan for the city – the first in 50 years. This ambitious document codifies the hopes and dreams of a 21st century community. But ambitious dreams require ambitious resources. To help meet the community’s challenges in order realize the city’s potential, local leaders are seeking innovative and effective ways to utilize national service and volunteerism. The City of Flint Framework for National Service and Volunteerism Expansion is designed to sit beside the Master Plan and outline how the power of people can help Flint become the community it wants to be.
The Cities of Service Blueprints have transitioned to locally sustainable programs with the Red Cross and the City of Flint. Additionally, countless volunteer programs and organizations give hundreds of hours of service time, including neighborhood groups, churches, schools, higher education institutions, corporations, and more. In 2017, Mayor Weaver launched the Mayor’s Beautification Initiative. Flint is truly creating a culture of service.
Chief Service Officer
Jennifer McArdle is the Civic Engagement Manager at the United Way of Genesee County and the Chief Service Officer for the City of Flint, MI. In this role, she oversees the Flint National Service Accelerator, an initiative to scale-up the number and effectiveness of national service members and programs serving the greater Flint community, and helps coordinate county-wide civic engagement opportunities. Jennifer previously directed a state-wide AmeriCorps VISTA Program at the Michigan Nonprofit Association and is a two-time VISTA alum.