Mississauga woman donates drinking water to Flint, 1 truckload at a time
Jessica Dalessandro has made several trips to struggling town
Mississauga's Jessica Dalessandro knew a major winter storm was barreling down on Toronto, but she loaded up a pickup truck full of bottled water and headed to Flint, Mich., earlier this week.
Delaying her trip, Dalessandro said, just wasn't an option.
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"I'm not going to stay home because there's a snowstorm coming," she told CBC News, days after a harrowing eight-hour drive home amid the massive winter storm.
"These people aren't just going to drink water next week," she added, emphasizing that Flint residents need water every single day.
Dalessandro, 28, has made several trips to deliver water to the town of Flint, which declared a state of emergency earlier this year when it was revealed that its water supply was contaminated with lead.
The contamination stemmed from a 2014 decision to switch the town's water source to the Flint River, which has water that corroded the town's pipes and leached lead into the water. Since then, the some 100,000 Flint residents have been getting by on bottled water — some of which is being provided by Dalessandro.
The George Brown College student who also works as a server at East Side Mario's said she first heard about Flint in the news and admits it was just "mind-boggling."
Days later, while sipping water at dinner, Dalessandro decided to act.
"All of a sudden it just hit me that someone four hours from where I was sitting wasn't able to do that," she said.
"I had to do something."
Dalessandro took to Facebook and quickly raised $300 to load a car with water bottles. Then she went straight to Flint to drop them off with Red Cross officials on the ground. As soon as she got back, she started raising more money (she now has a GoFundMe page) and started filling a bigger truck.
Her goal is to make the trip every two weeks, and she said she'll keep going "until I run out of money."
Dalessandro has run into some criticism, however. Some have criticized her choice to use plastic bottles and drive such distances for being environmentally damaging. Others have pointed out that some places in Canada — especially First Nations communities — also lack fresh drinking water.
To the first point, Dalessandro said she tries to be green in the rest of her life but is putting people's survival first in this instance. To the second, she said she has faith the Canadian government will handle the issues here but doesn't feel the same about American leaders.
"The solution isn't there," she said.
She also loves going to Flint and watching the water she brings get handed out almost as quickly as it's unloaded.
"They're just so desperate for water. There's no panic or anger, but they're very aware that without the donations there wouldn't be water," Dalessandro said.