This 12-year-old knows how to dominate community service

Mackenzie Hinson of Make a Difference Food Pantry Steps Up Big for the volunteers of Team Rubicon

Following a long day in flooded parts of North Carolina, Team Rubicon volunteers shuffled back to the operating base weary and hungry. A spunky, red-headed 12-year old named Mackenzie “Kenzie” Hinson greeted the team back at the FOB. She had a warm dinner prepared for every volunteer and suddenly, their dreary mood shifted.

At ten years old, Mackenzie Hinson opened the doors of the Make a Difference (MAD) Food Pantry in Goldsboro, NC. You read that right — ten years old. As president of the organization, her routine at MAD Food Pantry includes organizing shipments of around 24,000 lbs of food for the week to be distributed to local communities. Crowds gather outside the doors. The line of grateful recipients extends deep into the parking lot, where Mackenzie provides a light snack or soup and a drink while they wait.

Mackenzie Hinson, the POMAD (President of Make a Difference) Food Pantry loading up food with Team Rubicon’s Bess Wells.

MAD Food Pantry also operates a mobile food pantry every Friday. Boxes of food are carefully loaded up in preparation for deliveries to local schools and retirement communities. The boxes for food are provided through the American Red Cross, and with Team Rubicon’s preexisting relationship with the Red Cross as a National VOAD partner, Mackenzie will now receive these boxes at no cost.

She exemplifies humanitarian ideals, and at a young age, she is already inspiring other children to follow in her footsteps. Mackenzie’s own inspiration came after watching her mother suffer through a debilitating illness and finally return to good health. In November, a similar story emerged from Texas where an 8-year-old was inspired by Mackenzie’s work and raised thousands of dollars to purchase food and water for Hurricane Matthew victims.

Food to be delivered to students who qualify for the Backpack Buddy Program at a local Elementary and Middle School.

Team Rubicon deployed 130 volunteers throughout Wayne County, North Carolina, providing direct recovery support to homeowners impacted by flooding and other storm damage following Hurricane Matthew’s landfall. It was MAD Food Pantry who coordinated and provided our team members with hot, nutritious meals three times a day for the entire duration of the operation. From October through November, they provided Team Rubicon with breakfast, lunch, and dinner and operational savings of over $36,000.

Mackenzie Hinson with Katie Palmer, daugter of TR’s North Carolina’s State Administrator Greg Palmer on-site in Gatlinburg, TN delivering donations to kick off Team Rubicon’s Op Blue Smoke

As if she hadn’t done enough, Mackenzie continued her mission alongside Team Rubicon even after Operation Seymour Action was complete. She connected with Greg Palmer, the North Carolina State Administrator for TR, and his daughter Katie Palmer who lives in the Gatlinburg, TN area, which was recently devastated by a deadly wildfire. Together, Mackenzie and Katie collected donations for those affected by the fires. Make A Difference Food Pantry was set up in Tennessee at the start of Operation Blue Smoke with a delivery truck and trailer full of pallets with food, water, snacks, blankets, and other warming layers. These items have been delivered to families and first responders, as well as the Greyshirts currently responding.

Team Rubicon members will continue to discover a renewed sense of purpose, and at 12 years old, Mackenzie plays an incredibly important role in our mission and morale. Her ambition and drive will always be welcomed and appreciated in any community.

Thank you to Make a Difference Food Pantry and Katie Palmer for coordinating donations in Gatlinburg, TN. Here are Kenzie and Katie with Team Rubicon on Operation Blue Smoke.