Posted November 18, 2019
By Rebecca Metcalf
Flint City Pop Up Tent is a small nonprofit that makes a big difference in the neighborhood they serve. They host events and serve dinner on Sundays at 5 p.m. on the corner of Leith and Franklin on Flint’s Eastside. The group of family and friends has been serving the community for close to two years. They aspire to provide the traditional experience of a Sunday family dinner with a community that has both broken and non-traditional homes.
The family responsible for this nonprofit is a non-traditional family. Mary Mitchell and Shannon Earl are mothers to three hardworking and caring children. The kids, Alysea, Dominick and Andrew, came up with the idea to serve the community after watching their moms struggle to find a church where their non-nuclear family was welcome. They saved their weekly donations for the church, and spent it on the pop up tent and tables instead. While they are happy to take donations, most food expenses are out of pocket. They choose to contribute this way rather than giving to a church now.
Flint City Pop Up Tent is a place of inclusiveness where all are welcome. There is no need to show identification or give your address. You don’t have to attend church service to get the food. Visitors are told to take extra if they know someone who is homeless, elderly or shut in. In videos on their Facebook page, people are told to stop by even if they just need a friend.
The group is known for hosting events that are fun and family-oriented. For example, the Dayton Family, a Flint-based rap group, visited on Father’s Day last year. Holidays are celebrated regularly and with joy. The group provides games to play and prizes, such as Renaissance Festival tickets. They offer clothing and school supplies for kids going back to school in the fall. They often give out “blessing bags.”
The family and friends that run the nonprofit work as a well-oiled machine. It takes them less than 10 minutes to set up. The kids don’t have to be told what to do. It is a routine they obviously love. This family may not be traditional, but they really excel as a team. They also excel at persevering. It has taken some finagling; however, after some searching, they have found licensed kitchens to allow them to prepare food that meets health department standards.
The menu varies from week to week. When I visited, they were serving hot dogs, macaroni and cheese, spaghetti, mashed potatoes, fruit, and doughnuts donated by Donna’s Doughnuts. The food is placed in to-go containers for people to take home with them. In the summer, families with children are told to take extra, because they won’t be getting food from their school. No matter what they are serving, this family dishes out some healthy banter with the people in the neighborhood. While spooning out macaroni and cheese, Shannon stated, “This is why I look forward to Sundays, because I have fun out here.”
In addition to serving Sunday dinner, Shannon has a passion for helping sex trafficking victims and women in domestic battery situations. When collecting used clothing, this group of women is given preference. She is the president of the 3P Club at Mott Community College, a club that strives to prevent, protect and prosecute against violence. They have a partnership with the YWCA. This partnership allowed them to sponsor five families for Christmas, and feed 75 families at their tent. Santa came to their Christmas celebration and passed out stockings.
Shannon and Mary see themselves as a bridge between community members. For example, when a Veteran amputee mentioned that he needed his lawn mowed, they connected him with a local sports team that needed to raise money. They found space heaters for a family whose furnace was broken. The family also helps with blight clean-up groups. Shannon said, “I’d like to create a pamphlet with food pantries in the area.” She wants to link those in need with other resources in the area. “There is a real need for diapers, and I don’t know who to refer people to.” Feel free to stop by any Sunday if you need a meal, or a friend. If you know of any resources in the community that may be useful to this group, please contact them on location or at the Flint City Pop Up Tent Help Page on Facebook.
For more information, call 810.308.3449 or visit www.facebook.com/flintcitypopuphelptent/.
Flint City Pop Up Tent
1900 Leith St.
Flint, MI 48506
Hours of Operation:
Sun., 5 p.m. until they run out of food