Mackenzie Hinson of Mount Olive is one of the Federal Emergency Management Agency's 15 national selectees for the 2018--2019 Youth Preparedness Council.

Mackenzie, 14, was 10 when she founded the Make A Difference Food Pantry in 2015 with the help of her parents.

She served food to 8,000 people in Wayne, Johnston and Sampson counties during Hurricane Matthew in October 2016.

FEMA created the YPC in 2012 to bring together young leaders who are interested in supporting disaster preparedness and making a difference in their communities by completing disaster preparedness projects nationally and locally.

The 15 council members attended the Youth Preparedness Council Summit in Washington, D.C., from July 17-18, to meet with FEMA leaders and other youth preparedness advocates to prepare for the year ahead.

The YPC new member selection panel was impressed by Mackenzie's broad community involvement.

Along with the food pantry, Mackenzie operates six outreach sites.

The pantry serves more than 6,800 people every month in Wayne, Duplin, Johnston and Sampson counties.

The pantry also educates those it serves on issues of disaster preparedness, healthy living and volunteerism.

In addition to her efforts with her food pantry, Mackenzie is a member of Jordans Chapel 4-H, the Wayne County Skillathon Team, the Mayor's Youth Council, the Artistic Dance Academy and the Hydrant Youth Group.

She is also a prosecutor for Wayne County Teen Court, a clerk for the N.C. Youth Legislative Assembly, a Special Olympics volunteer, and was appointed by Gov. Roy Cooper to be North Carolina's Spokeskid for Volunteerism.

"Mackenzie's innovative ideas on working with students will be a great asset to this year's Youth Preparedness Council," said Gracia Szczech, FEMA's Region IV administrator.

"Already a strong leader in the Mount Olive community, she'll have an opportunity to make a big difference in youth preparedness. I'm looking forward to working with her."

While on the YPC, Mackenzie said she would like to develop an educational program called "Back to Basics: Neighbors Helping Neighbors, Students Helping Students."

The program would educate people on how to help their neighbors efficiently and effectively during an emergency, since neighbors are usually the first on the scene.

This effort supports the FEMA message of "You Are the Help Until Help Arrives."

The program teaches water safety, first aid and assessing and responding to injuries.

Students learn how to respond and react to protect themselves and others during an active shooter incident and other disasters.

On a larger scale, she would like to develop "Safety in Numbers," a social media campaign to help others learn how to protect themselves and others during an emergency and how doing this together increases the chances of success.

Mackenzie joins Region IV's other YPC members, Marcos Rios of Georgia and Ruben Banks from Mississippi.

To learn more about the FEMA Youth Preparedness Council, visit www.ready.gov/youth-preparedness-council.