Mackenzie Hinson, 12, was not only the keynote speaker at the United Way of Wayne County's annual meeting on Wednesday, she took home its most prestigious award.

Hinson is the president and founder of Make a difference Food Pantry located in the Grantham community. She founded the pantry in 2015 at 10 years old with the help of her parents. Since opening, her pantry has served over 54,000 people and provided over 410,000 meals. Hinson highlighted her innovation and passion for ending hunger, with a focus on childhood hunger, during her keynote speech. Hinson stated, "In North Carolina, 52 percent of people have to choose between rent and food ... right here in Wayne County, 58 percent of people struggle with hunger." In conjunction with all that she already does, Hinson expressed her goal of purchasing a food truck so that she may better serve the community.

United Way of Wayne County presented Hinson with the Emil Rosenthal Volunteer of the Year Award for her tireless and unselfish commitment to bettering Wayne County. The award is named after the late Emil Rosenthal, who was a champion for United Way and community enrichment. Dr. Phillip Kerstetter, who received the Emil Rosenthal Award last year, presented the honor to Hinson. Additionally, in connection with United Way of Wayne County's 0-10 initiative, which aims to improve factors influencing development in children ages 0-10 and Hinson's Kenzie's Kids Summer Caf(c), which provides meals to children who may not receive proper nutrition when school is out, United Way of Wayne County awarded a $10,000 strategic initiative grant to her pantry in assistance of the program.

Other recognitions at the meeting included the Spirit of Wayne Award, which highlighted organizations in the community who put forth significant efforts to support United Way of Wayne County's Community Campaign last year. Spirit of Wayne recipients included: BB&T, Carver Heights Elementary, City of Goldsboro, Dillard School, U.S. Cargo Systems and Wayne Early Middle College. Pamela Pearce, of U.S. Cargo Systems, was also recognized as the campaign coordinator of the year.

After a difficult year for the county, this year's United Way of Wayne County Annual Meeting presented an opportunity to recognize all of the good that was accomplished in the community and that one can make a difference regardless of circumstance. In the words of Mackenzie Hinson, "It's about how you make people feel".."