For eight years, a small nonprofit run from the Sussex home of an ink company sales director has focused its efforts on supplying clean drinking water to villages in developing countries.
But around three weeks ago, Greg Stromberg, who founded Canned Water 4 Kids in 2008, has shifted his focus to a water crisis in an impoverished U.S. city that has been battered by high unemployment, debt and infrastructure problems for more than a decade: Flint, Mich.
Flint, a city of about 100,000 people in eastern Michigan, has made national headlines in recent months for its lead-contaminated water, which has caused a public health crisis for residents.
“It’s more than a shock, it’s beyond belief that we could have something like this happen," Stromberg said of the Flint water crisis.
Three weeks ago, Canned Water 4 Kids worked with the Racine Police Department and the co-founder of a water education nonprofit called Adventure Kids Learning to send two trucks carrying more than 100,000 cans of water to Flint. Now, Stromberg is looking for volunteers to drive as many as 150,000 more.
His nonprofit is small. No one is paid, including himself. It's made up entirely of volunteers. The vast majority of the money it raises pays shipping costs.
Stromberg runs the nonprofit at night from his home when he comes home from his day job at INX International Ink Co. on Mill Road in northwest Milwaukee. At INX he connects companies with ink they can print on aluminum cans. And he uses some of his connection
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s in that industry to help with his charity work.
"I’ve been so busy at my day job and running this charity late at night, it’s been hard," Stromberg said. "I don’t have a big staff. We’re lean charity ... but it's a passion."
Joan Roehre, co-founder of Adventure Kids Learning, connected Stromberg with a donation drive for Flint residents held by the Racine Police Department to help him get water to Flint. She's now trying to get another Canned Water 4 Kids shipment to students by working with a Flint school district. She visited there last week.
"It has taken me days to kind of process what I saw," Roehre said. "To be quite honest, if I were to describe a war zone it would look like that. To see block upon block of leveled homes and then to see three, four or five abandoned or burned out homes in a row ... it is heartbreaking."
She said one home she passed had "for sale: $3,000" spray painted on a board covering its front windows.
"They feel like throwaways," Roehre said of the students in Flint she spoke with. "It’s disheartening and absolutely sickening. It really hit me."
Canned Water 4 Kids has helped build wells and shipped canned water to developing countries around the world, including Zambia, Kenya, Uganda, Guatemala and Haiti.