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Volunteers distribute cases of bottled water to residents on Oct. 15, at God’s Household of Faith in Benton Harbor.

BENTON HARBOR — The almost 200 volunteers handing out cases of bottled water to Benton Harbor residents each week will be a little warmer as they work through the winter months.

Meridian, a government-sponsored managed care plan, has donated hand warmers, Keurig machines, and coffee, tea and hot chocolate pods, along with snacks to be used at the Benton Harbor High School distribution site, according to a news release.

“Meridian has been boots on the ground from the start,” said Benton Harbor Mayor Marcus Muhammad, when contacted by phone Friday.

He said the volunteer spirit of everyone involved has made getting bottled water to the almost 10,000 city residents possible.

“Meridian is one of the groups that was not volun-told, but volunteered,” Muhammad said.

Meridian has also provided funding to local organizations to help families buy non-perishable food and fresh groceries.

“Volunteers are vital to ensuring programs like this can keep running, especially in a time of crisis. It is Meridian’s pleasure to be able to support the community of Benton Harbor in this way,” said Sean Kendall, CEO and plan president of Meridian, in the release.

The city has been required to collect water samples to be tested every six months since October 2018, when it was first put under a state advisory for having higher-than-acceptable amounts of lead in some of the city’s tap water.

The city was thrust into the national spotlight in October, when state officials first urged Benton Harbor residents to use bottled water for cooking, drinking, brushing teeth, rinsing foods and mixing powdered infant formula “out of an abundance of caution.”

The state started shipping free cases of bottled water to the city shortly after the announcement.

The state’s recommendation is expected to remain in place until the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency completes its study of the city’s water and the effectiveness of water filters that are meant to filter out the lead. That study is expected to be done by February.

To arrange water delivery to homebound or residents without transportation in the city, contact 211, which is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Phones that cannot contact 211 should call 844-875-9211.

Community volunteers are helping Benton Harbor residents pick up water at Benton Harbor High School, 870 Colfax Ave. The volunteers are available:

Saturday

  • Noon-2 p.m. – Volunteers from Boys & Girls Club of Benton Harbor
  • 2-4 p.m. – Volunteers from New Covenant Community Baptist Church
  • 4-6 p.m. – Volunteers from Harbor of Hope Seventh-Day Adventist Church

Sunday

  • 2-4 p.m. – Volunteers from Abundant Life C.O.G.I.C.
  • 4-6 pm – Volunteers from Brotherhood of All Nations

Monday

  • Noon-2 p.m. – Volunteers from Abundant Life C.O.G.I.C.
  • 4-6 p.m. – Volunteers from New Covenant Community Baptist Church

Tuesday

  • Noon-2 p.m. – Volunteers from Abundant Life C.O.G.I.C.
  • 4-6 p.m. – Volunteers from Ebenezer Baptist Church

Wednesday

  • Noon-2 p.m. – Volunteers from Purpose Church Ministries
  • 4-6 p.m. – Volunteers from Purpose Church Ministries

Thursday

  • Noon-2 p.m. – Volunteers from Ebenezer Baptist Church
  • 4-6 p.m. – Volunteers from Brotherhood of All Nations

The Southwest Community Action Agency, 331 Miller St., will host self-serve water pickup as follows:

  • Monday, 10 a.m.-2 p.m.
  • Wednesday, 10 a.m.-2 p.m.
  • Thursday, 10 a.m.-2 p.m.
  • Friday, 10 a.m.-2 p.m.

Contact: lwrege@TheHP.com, 932-0361, Twitter: @HPWrege

Staff Writer at The Herald-Palladium