Howard student started dynamic non-profit at age 11

Makenzie Smith, a third year communications student at Howard University.
Photo by Dymin Cannon

When it comes to giving back to her community, Makenzie Smith doesn’t have a problem. She is always serving her community with a caring heart. Smith is a third-year communications major at Howard University from Saginaw, Michigan.

Smith started her nonprofit organization A Change of Heart in 2010 as an 11 year old.

“I created this organization for children to serve in their local communities. As a child, we are often told ‘No,’ because we are too little. Many people think because we are little, we can’t make a difference. Growing up, my mom always volunteered at local places and I couldn’t volunteer,” she said. 

Smith’s organization gained local attention in 2014 during the Flint water crisis. She began going to public markets such as Meijer’s, Walmart and Sam’s Club to ask for water donations. Eventually, local community members joined her to collect water for the victims who were affected.

She spent more than six months collecting gallons and packs of water before she distributed them to residents of Flint. 

Carolyn Johnson, a resident of Flint, reflected on the impact of this nonprofit organization. 

“I remember the day when ’Kenzie delivered the tons of water to the residents of Flint. I remember seeing all of these cars lined up on Saginaw Street. There were a lot of kids, young kids, ready and excited to deliver water. In a time that was so complicated and sad, that young lady brought smiles to our faces. It was a moment that I will never forget,” Johnson said. 

Lauryn Smith, a close friend, talked about Smith’s determination for change. 

“Although things are still happening with the Flint water crisis, we must move on. Our service does not stop, and neither does ’Kenzie. Even though she is in college at Howard, she is making a difference on her college campus. She started a program at Howard’s campus for women who are not fortunate to buy personal items such as hygiene products, socks, and undergarments. Wherever she goes, she makes sure that she leaves her mark. I have witnessed her spending her hard owned money on some of these supplies,” Smith said. 

Smith is still building her brand and serving in her communities back home and on campus. Every week, she writes down ideas in her journal that would make an impact on different ethnic groups. 

“I feel as though my gift is to help the helpless. I don’t need to get paid for what I do because I love it,” she said.