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Columbus Girl Receives Humanitarian Award For Flint Water Drive

Debbie Holmes
Ten-year-old Mackenzie Lewis organized a bottled water drive for Flint residents.

A 10-year-old Columbus student says "God put it on my heart" to organize a bottled water drive for victims of the Flint, Michigan water crisis.

For her efforts, Mackenzie Lewis was honored Thursday with a Governor's Humanitarian Award at the Ohio Dr. Martin Luther King Junior Holiday Commemorative Celebration. 

Ongoing issues with Flint's water supply raised concerns around the country of lead poisoning, especially among children. Lewis said she first heard about the story while watching the news.

"I'm like, woah, that is really not fair that we have clean water and they don't," Lewis says. "While I was dreaming, it just like popped up in my head."

She had an idea: A church water challenge.

"That's kind of her heart," says Tracy Lewis, Mackenzie's mother. "She's a very compassionate little girl. So I wasn't surprised. I was more, how are we going to make this happen? Because typically, if she decides that she wants to do something, you know, she's moving towards getting it done."

In fact, Lewis says it was her mother who motivated her to take action.

"She inspires me," Lewis says. "I just want to be like my mom someday."

Credit Facebook
Mackenzie Lewis stands among some of the supplies she helped deliver to Flint residents.

The two of them drove her around the city dropping flyers in church mailboxes, promoting their plan to collect clean water and other supplies for Flint residents. In total, she says she collected 300 gallons and 1200 cases of water, in addition to paper products, hand sanitizer and cleaning products.

Lewis and her mom made two trips to Flint to deliver the supplies themselves - to an enthusiastic response.

"They were like, 'Oh, you're Miss Columbus. Oh, please get in this picture with me. I want to shake your hand.'"

Though Lewis says she's nervous about the Governor's Humanitarian Award ceremony, she's happy about the positive response to her work. 

"Nobody really sees little girls my age do, like, huge, huge, huge things," Lewis says. "And I'm, like, trying to encourage other little girls, like, even younger than me. If you want to help somebody, just go for it."

Debbie Holmes has worked at WOSU News since 2009. She has hosted All Things Considered, since May 2021. Prior to that she was the host of Morning Edition and a reporter.