Just over a year ago, a little girl in Hampstead had a pretty big idea.
Since then, Makenzie Greenwood, a fifth-grader at Spring Garden Elementary, has been honored by the Baltimore Orioles, the Carson Scholars Fund, the comptroller of Maryland and, on Jan. 24, by Gov. Larry Hogan and the state legislature.
More important to Makenzie, she has helped hundreds of hungry people get some food.
Modeled after the leave-a-book, take-a-book Little Free Libraries that have popped up all over in recent years, Makenzie started Hampstead’s Little Free Pantry on the back of the prayer chapel annex at St. John's United Methodist Church on Main Street in Hampstead on Jan. 7, 2017.
She didn’t do it alone, reaching out first to Pastor Melissa Rudolph at St. John’s. The two of them then approached Rich Rost, of Venturing Crew 2013 and a member of the North Carroll Cooperative Parish to which St. John's belongs. He and his team designed and built the cabinet that holds the food and other items. Earl Fisher donated the sign, while Outlaw Barbecue and Holy Yoga also made early donations.
Food is donated from members of the community and Makenzie and her family help keep the pantry stocked. The Little Free Pantry dedication was held in May.
Food has been taken from it somewhere around 400 times since it opened.
“It’s doing more than I had hoped,” Makenzie said. “I was not expecting that people would use it every day.”
They have. And many have noticed, the governor only being the latest.
“We couldn’t be more proud of you,” Hogan said on Jan. 24 prior to awarding her the Governor’s Citation. “We truly appreciate the tremendous job you've done to help folks in your community.”
In 2017, Makenzie was given a Carson Scholar Award for academic achievement — she has a 4.0 GPA — and community service, the Orioles presented her with a Birdland Hero Award and she was honored by Comptroller Peter Franchot in Hampstead December, when she became the youngest person to win the William Donald Schaefer Helping People Award for Carroll County.
On Jan. 24, Makenzie, her mother, Jennifer, her father, Rob, and her brother, Jameson, were invited to Annapolis and spent the day in the state’s capital, getting a chance to see how government works while picking up plenty more recognition.
“It was amazing,” Makenzie said of her day. “I loved it.”
Her day began at the State House, where she sat in the front row at the Board of Public Works meeting in the Governor’s Reception Room. Franchot lauded her achievements, calling her Little Free Pantry idea “brilliant.”
“This compassionate, smart, industrious young lady represents Maryland’s finest,” the comptroller told the crowd. “She was inspired to help people in her hometown of Hampstead.
“Several times a week, Makenzie stops by the pantry to make sure it is well stocked and organized and we’re incredibly blessed to have people like Makenzie Greenwood working so diligently, with no desire for praise or recognition, to help those in need. I am personally inspired by Makenzie.”
Makenzie was then given the Governor’s Citation and her family came up to meet and take some photos with Hogan, Franchot, Treasure Nancy Kopp, state Sen. Justin Ready and Del. Haven Shoemaker.
Afterward, Kopp, who gave Makenzie a certificate of achievement and a pewter cup made in Salisbury, pulled Makenzie aside and spoke to her briefly.
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Then it was on to the House of Delegates. There, House Resolution 68, sponsored by Shoemaker, was passed, honoring Makenzie.
After that, the family went to the Senate. There, Senate Resolution 210, sponsored by Ready, was passed, honoring Makenzie.
“I liked the Senate [best] because we got to see a debate,” said Makenzie, who got to see state senators discussing the merits of a bill that would allow the Motor Vehicle Administraton to issue birth certificates.
All the accolades have come because she saw a problem, figured out a way she could help and area residents have been most supportive.
The Little Free Pantry receives donations on a regular basis. And they are most needed because there are numerous individuals and families in the Hampstead area who don’t have enough to eat.
“It’s been a little bit of a challenge to keep it stocked,” Jennifer Greenwood said. “Every time it starts to get low we start to worry, but the community really comes through.”
She further noted that proteins such as peanut butter, canned chicken and canned tuna as well as quick foods that don’t require other ingredients, like boxes of macaroni and cheese, are most in need. More information can be found on the Little Free Pantry Facebook page.