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Mackenzie Parker and her beloved friends of Girl Scout Troop 2801 help prepare of 30 Thanksgiving dinner bags on Nov. 19. For about four years, Parker’s service project “Kenzie’s Kitchen” has grown, providing holiday meals for Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas to local families. In the past, Parker has worked with the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office and Homestead Elementary. This year, however, she teamed up with her troop, two churches and Homestead Elementary to provide a total of 50 holiday meals to help feed struggling families.

Fifty families were able to sit around an aptly lain table for Thanksgiving thanks to Mackenzie Parker’s love project “Kenzie’s Kitchen,” the help of her Girl Scout Troop 2801 and other helpful friends. For Thanksgiving dinner, Parker collected family-sized pre-cooked turkey breasts, stuffing mix, gravy, biscuits or rolls, corn, green beans, cranberry sauce, yams and apple pie. While many recipients may not be aware that the provisions were made possible by the vision and care of a thoughtful and precious 8-year-old, Parker has high hopes people will be inspired to help others, whether it be to get involved with her project or start a project of their own. 

“Kenzie’s Kitchen” was born when Parker was just 3 years old and saw a TV special about hungry children in Appalachia. Parker’s grandmother, Terry Denton, recalled that when the little girl had realized what it meant, she’d asked, “So, their bellies growl all the time?” 

Parker’s sweet heart ached to make it better. She couldn’t bear the thought that there were children actually living in hunger. 

She made up her mind. She would feed them. 

At first, Parker’s grandparents tried to direct her toward volunteering at various places in Crossville to sate her sweet and giving heart. But, Parker had something more personal in mind.

“She wanted to give baskets,” said Shawn Denton, the proud grandfather. 

In her first year, they organized about 30 baskets for families to have a wonderful Easter dinner and then again for Thanksgiving. In the next years, Parker has worked with House of Hope, Crossville Police Department and Homestead Elementary School. This year, Parker partnered with two local churches and Homestead Elementary to provide meals for struggling families, recruiting her favorite Girl Scouts, Troop 2801, as a troop service project to help put many of the meal bags together to give to the families. 

When she sits down to her family holiday meals, Parker has a tradition of imagining all the families she helped sitting down to their dinners and enjoying them as she enjoys hers. 

“Kenzie’s Kitchen” project has become a service project for the family as Parker’s grandparents and brothers, Cody and Logan, are always supportive and willing to help. What they don’t get in donations or sponsorships, Shawn Denton fills in the monetary, supply and logistical needs for his granddaughter’s project. 

Reportedly, Parker has already started collecting to be able to provide Easter holiday meals next spring. For those who would like to support “Kenzie’s Kitchen,” contact Shawn Denton by emailing hogfish47@aol.com.