MECHANICSVILLE, Va. — A Richmond-area community activist is being honored by GoFundMe for his work in deliver hundreds of thousand of water bottles to Flint, Michigan as it deals with its water crisis.
The fundraising website already features people on its GoFundMe Heroes page, highlighting “people who are making a positive impact in their neighborhoods, communities, and beyond.” But later this November, the website will hold its inaugural “GoFundMe Community Nominated Heroes” celebration where it will honor five people at a live event in San Francisco.
The website said the five finalists were picked from among thousands of nominations from the public.
One of the five was Lance Cooper who, since June 2018, has run the RVA FLINT: #SaveFlintChallenge page which raises money to provide clean drinking water to residents of Flint.
In its selection of Cooper, GoFundMe had this to say about his efforts:
“Lance is a community activist in Richmond, VA. From more than 600 miles away, he watched as residents of Flint, MI saw their showers, faucets, and taps turn to brown, polluted water. He knew he had to take action. As the water crisis made headlines, he enlisted the help of people in his community. The RVA Flint: #SaveFlintChallenge encourages people in the Richmond area and around the world to stay actively involved in supplying the residents of Flint with clean drinking water.
The #SaveFlintChallenge has distributed more than 350,000 bottles of water and partners with Little Miss Flint’s Clean Water Fund to help the people of Flint. Long after the media attention has faded, Lance continues to build awareness and keep the world informed of this crisis.”
CBS 6 has done stories on Cooper in the past about a previous GoFundMe fundraiser to take Richmond children to see the movie “Black Panther.” Cooper said it was a quote from that movie that inspired his work in Flint.
“‘During times of crisis, the wise build bridges when fools build barriers and it’s our duty to look after one another as if we were one tribe.’ So, that was a takeaway that I stressed to the students and it stayed with me,” explained Cooper. “The word crisis, of course, immediately Flint’s water crisis came to mind.”
Cooper said since then, his challenge as delivered over 350,000 bottles of water to the residents of Flint, but he added that it is about more than just bottled water.
“We also hold events to feed the homeless and clothe the homeless there. We help them pay water bills there,” said Cooper. “The RVA Save Flint Challenge is pretty much a community improvement social project and it’s, of course, centered around providing water relief for Flint, but we also have been successful in getting people around the world involved in helping communities other than their own.”
Cooper said learning of the GoFundMe award made him feel great.
“It was a win not just for me, but for Flint and RVA,” added Cooper. “Because a part of what we do here is creating more local community leaders. So, to them they may consider me a hero, but in my eyes the real heroes are the mothers and fathers of Flint, Michigan, who are persistent despite the crisis and, of course, the children in Flint, Michigan who refuse to be remembered for the crisis, but also, focused on being remembered for their resilience throughout this crisis.”
Cooper added that because the water crisis continues in Flint, he is still collecting water and other amenities, like clothes and shoes, to bring to the city.
“My work is indefinite and we plan to stick with them until it’s over,” said Cooper, but added he is looking to expand to other U.S. cities dealing with water issues. “I took it from just focusing on Flint to focusing on America’s water crisis.”
Cooper said while he continues his work, he hopes it inspires others to take action themselves.
“I want more young black youth here to focus on giving back to their community so they can not just be known on their block, but be heroes around the world,” said Cooper. “Flint, Michigan definitely deserves help, but there’s so many other places around the world that could use more heroes.”
More information about Cooper’s work can be found here.
The GoFundMe ceremony will take place on Nov. 14.