Seventh-grader Rachel Mackie’s work for homeless earns her Prudential Spirit of Community Award
DOVER — A few years ago, when tornadoes devastated parts of Oklahoma, young Rachel Mackie took notice from her home in Dover.
“I said, ‘I want to help.’ I told my mom, ‘I’m going to collect school supplies for these people,’” Rachel recalled last week at Holy Cross School in Dover, where she is in seventh grade.
Her father, Russell, works for a trucking company and was able to arrange transportation for the items she collected. The spirit of community took hold of her that summer, which was right before she entered fourth grade.
That has continued, and this year, Rachel is the middle school recipient of the Prudential Spirit of Community Award for Delaware. One middle school and one high school student from each state and the District of Columbia are selected each year.
She was nominated for her work on behalf of Code Purple, a homeless shelter in Dover. She spearheaded an effort by her 4H chapter to collect more than 900 items for the homeless in Kent County and to help bring holiday cheer by providing a fully decorated tree at the shelter, according to Prudential.
The four pillars of 4H are head, heart, hands and health, but Rachel has added “help” to that list.
The 4H members launched a collection drive in partnership with Dynamic Physical Therapy, which set up collection points in five Kent County locations. She and her friends solicited materials to knit 50 winter hats for Code Purple, and she persuaded a local church to donate a Christmas tree to the shelter. The 4H made more than 200 ornaments to decorate it.
It’s pretty heady stuff for a 13-year-old.
The Christmas tree idea stemmed from a tree-trimming contest her 4H chapter, the Woodside Emeralds, participated in two years ago.
“We decided to make it community-service themed. We decided to, along with the contest, collect donations for Code Purple,” she said.
Rebecca Martin, the director of Code Purple Kent County, said Rachel was very giving and caring with those in need over the holidays.
“They were so appreciative as it had been years for some to have a Christmas. She also came numerous times with gifts of socks, food, toiletries … and was always willing to take the time to listen to the stories that the people had to share. She has a huge heart and a passion for giving,” Martin said.
She has had a chance to interact with the people at Code Purple, which was a learning experience.
“When we set up the Christmas tree at the Code Purple house, I met some people who actually were homeless but then had homes because of Code Purple, and also one person who was still homeless. They were normal people who happened not to have a house,” she said.
Rachel was nominated in the fall, and she found out early this year that she had won. She doesn’t like to brag about her accomplishments, but during Holy Cross’ Ash Wednesday Mass, principal Linda Pollitt announced to the student body that Rachel had been selected.
Rachel said she was not aware of how special the award is until the letter from Prudential arrived notifying her that she had won.
“My mom got really excited,” Rachel said. “She was like, ‘You have to call your grandmother.’ So I called Grandma, and Grandma started crying, so I thought this has to be really important. So I did lots of research on it, and I was like, ‘This is some really cool stuff.’”
She will spend four days in Washington, D.C., with her mother, Karen, in May. There, she will get to meet the other 101 people who have been honored.
Rachel is in her third year at Holy Cross, where she is a member of the Knitting Club and Odyssey of the Mind, and she plays volleyball. She also really enjoys her work with the Woodside Emeralds 4H, where she is learning about more than community service.
“I do beekeeping, I do small engines, electricity, dogs. It teaches you a lot of different stuff,” she said. “We’re working on fixing a lawnmower that my neighbor gave us for the project.
“Anything you can think of, it’s there.”