How One Woman’s Love of Dr Pepper Helped Bring Bottled Water to Flint

A 29-year-old traded her Twitter handle for a charitable donation.
(Photo: Dwayne Bent/Flickr)
Apr 1, 2016· 1 MIN READ
Samantha Cowan is an associate editor for culture.

New social media butterflies who have attempted to join Twitter in recent years may have had to go with their second, third, or even 100th choice when selecting a handle. But back in 2009, before the site gained widespread popularity among individuals and brands, Diana Hussein easily snagged a handle honoring her favorite beverage: Diet Dr Pepper.

“I never expected Twitter to take off in the way it did, where brands would be all over, including sodas with their own accounts,” Hussein told the Detroit Free Press.

Twitter’s popularity as marketing tool put Hussein, a 29-year-old communications specialist for a labor union in Dearborn, Michigan, in a position of power. But rather than ask for cash, she used her coveted social media handle to bring clean water to Flint, Michigan.

Although Hussein contacted the Dr Pepper Snapple Group back in 2013 to see if it wanted access to the account, it wasn’t until January of this year that the company expressed interest in obtaining her Twitter handle. (Dr Pepper has its own account, with more than 400,000 followers.) Officials offered to trade the handle for soda swag, but Hussein had a more generous plan in mind.

She requested that the beverage conglomerate donate $5,000 worth of water to Flint. Along with Orangina, Yoo-hoo, and Hawaiian Punch, the Dr Pepper Snapple Group also owns bottled water company Deja Blue.

The Dr Pepper Snapple Group readily agreed to Hussein’s suggestion and last month, Deja Blue delivered 41,000 bottles to Flint, according to the Free Press. Now Hussein tweets under the handle @heyadiana.

The citizens of Flint have been plagued with lead- and iron-laden water because of a 2014 decision to switch the city’s water supply from Lake Huron to the Flint River. Government officials hoped the switch would save money, but the highly corrosive water in the river caused old pipes to degrade and leach harmful lead into the water supply for the city’s 100,000 residents. Flint switched back to Lake Huron water in October, and although the water’s lead and iron levels have declined, researchers advise residents to continue using filtered and bottle water.

“When you hear about what they’re having to do right now…it doesn’t seem like there could be enough water,” Hussein told the Free Press. “I had been feeling kind of helpless...I’m glad I had an opportunity like this present itself for me to be able to take advantage.”