Jets lineman Kelvin Beachum donates, volunteers to combat Newark water crisis

For the past three years, in the weeks leading up to training camp, New York Jets tackle Kelvin Beachum has set aside three days for fasting and prayer. This retreat has always come before a major life event. The first year he got engaged soon after. The second year he got married. This year, Beachum has stepped into the middle of a humanitarian crisis taking place in his own neighborhood.

The city of Newark, N.J., has had a growing concern about lead contamination in its water systems for years, and last year handed out free free water filters to thousands of homes. The water filters didn’t work. This summer, the government pledged to hand out free water to the citizens of Newark, who stood in the August heat for hours, only to find out that many of the waters’ “best-by” date had expired.

So the day after the Jets’ last preseason game, Beachum stepped in, donating $10,000 to the United Way of Essex and West Hudson, and helping create distribution centers in Newark’s South Ward. Beachum himself stayed at the center all day, handing out water bottles he helped pay for.

“Where I stay at and where [the Jets’] facility is at, the water comes from the same place as Newark,” Beachum told SBNation. “But there, the pipes haven’t been fixed, whereas the pipes in suburban towns like Madison, Morristown, Chatham, and Livingston have. I took issue with that.”

While Beachum said he doesn’t want to make this moment about race relations, he felt obliged to point out that in rich, predominately white areas, the water crisis has been solved, whereas the poor, and more racially diverse areas, still wait for solutions.

“I knew it was an area that was underrepresented and underfunded, but not to this level,” Beachum said about Newark. “You just don’t see this happening in very rich, Caucasian neighborhoods … I’m a person of color. I have three kids. This isn’t an issue that’s going to affect other populations in this country. Flint hasn’t affected other populations in this country. We live in one of the richest countries in the world, and we’re not making sure that people have one of the most basic human rights: access to clean water.”

A team of volunteers, including Beachum, delivered water bottles to residents who couldn’t drive to get it, including the home of two young kids living with their grandmother, who was about to spend her last $20 buying clean water.

“It’s a help, but we gave that to them on Friday, and if you’re rationing water out, that might have gotten them to Wednesday or Thursday,” Beachum said. “Then they’ve got to go get more water. I don’t think people think about it in that context.”

Beachum has lobbied his teammates and the NFL to get involved in the crisis as well.

“I am going to ask and I’m going to keep asking,” Beachum says. “Where people are being affected by this is 15 to 20 minutes from the practice facility that we visit every single day. The NFL headquarters on Fifth Avenue is maybe a 35-minute drive away. If it was your water, wouldn’t you want somebody to say something? But it ain’t your water, so you don’t care that much. That’s how I see it.”

Responding this crisis wasn’t what Beachum expected following his time of fasting and prayer, but that’s the point: making himself available for whatever God wants him to do.

“By fasting before God, I can better discern what His will is for my life,” Beachum wrote for The Increase recently. “It’s not as if I always hear His audible voice, but when I get in the Word, I’m allowing Him to convict me and show me ways in which I can be doing better — having better discipline, becoming a better evangelist, becoming better at drawing others to Him. I literally sit, read, pray and sleep. Sit, read, pray and sleep. I repeat this over and over until I’m done. By listening to His Word as it speaks to my heart, I’m able to recollect what He’s done in my life, refocus on what He’s doing, and realign my heart to prepare for what He’s about to do.”

For those interested in helping with the Newark water crisis, text WATER to 20222 to make a $10 donation to the United Way of Essex and West Hudson.

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