A ‘Heart’ For Helping

Published 6:00 pm Sunday, October 2, 2011

When Brandi Hankins decided to let herdaughter, Pixie, start enrolling in pageants, she was sure to pickones that promoted the goals of having fun and making friends.

    She learned that the Miss Heart of America Pageant not only suitedthose goals but surpassed them with the added aspect of communityservice in the form of food drives.

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    “The more charity work you do, the bigger you become,” she said.”It’s not about beauty or things like that. It’s about things thatreally matter. I think it’s good to do it that way.”

    The Miss Heart of America has pageants in north, central andsouthern Mississippi. Pixie, 5, recently won the title “Little MissHinds County Queen of Hearts,” the highest honor in the pageant,for the central region.

    Pixie, who attends school at Loyd Star, raised 136 canned fooditems in her class alone and additional items outside of school fora total of 298 items that will be donated in her name through thepageant.

    Hankins said Pixie’s teacher, Jessica Smith, and her classmatesreally helped out in a big way with their donations.

    “If it wasn’t for them, we wouldn’t have succeeded the way we did,”she said. “They were the base of everything.”

    Pixie will go on to compete at the state competition for a chanceto win a $3,000 scholarship in D’Iberville in July. In themeantime, it’s more charity work.

    Hankins said she will be working with a number of organizationsincluding Stewpot, the Salvation Army, Toys for Tots and Angel Treein the coming months.

    “When you find a good cause, you gotta jump to it,” she said. “She(Pixie) doesn’t care if she wins or loses. She doesn’t have aconcept of winning or losing. She just has lots of fun and makesfriends and knows that she’s helping people in need. She lovesit.”

    Pixie said it makes her feel good to help people.

    “I collect canned food for people who don’t have food,” she said.”I help them to eat.”

    Miss Heart of America pageant started as a charity event to helpsave a mission in Dothan, Ala., in 2009 and quickly spread to therest of the state and into Florida. As of today, the pageant is puton in 29 states and has donated 645,000 food items nationwide since2010, according to a press release from the organization.

    Hankins said the most challenging thing is finding localorganizations or places to help host the food drives.

    “All I need is a parking lot,” she said. “We’re not asking for anymoney, and I do all the legwork.”

    For Pixie and her mom, the pageants are a unique way for them togive back to the community and help people in need, as well asspend quality time together.

    “We don’t care about the beauty part,” Hankins said. “It’s just agood cause that I think is good for her to be involved in, and shereally has a sense for what she’s doing by collecting food forpeople who can’t get it.”