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Teen plans dinner for others
Meal will be served today

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

By BEN R. WILLIAMS - Bulletin Staff Writer

Kionna Faith Mills wants to give back to her community, starting with a free Christmas dinner.

Kionna, 15, is a freshman at Martinsville High School. A few months ago, she noticed something at school that inspired her.

“Since I came to high school, I noticed that a lot of my friends are on free or reduced lunch,” she said. For some of those friends, that lunch might be “the only thing that they’ll eat that day until they come back to school the next day.”

Kionna asked her parents if they could help her put together a free Christmas dinner for the community. Her father, Jonathan Mills, contacted the pastor of his church, the Rev. Kenneth C. Hairston, and asked if Antioch Missionary Baptist could host a free Christmas dinner.

“They were very excited,” Jonathan Mills said.

Her mother, Stephanie Mills, meanwhile, volunteered to do the cooking, and also helped spread the word.

“It wasn’t something we made a big deal about; we just said that anyone who wanted to donate, could,” Stephanie Mills said. Several members of Antioch Missionary Baptist volunteered to bring desserts, she added.

The church, located at 160 Antioch Church St., Ridgeway, will host the dinner from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. today, Stephanie Mills said. The menu will include turkey, ham, french onion mashed potatoes, stuffing, gravy, green beans, dessert, and a choice of lemonade or coffee.

“This is a dry run, because she’s planning to do more of them through 2014,” Stephanie Mills said. “She’s going to do some canned food drives, and I think we’re going to try about three dinners per year.”

While they’re hoping to serve roughly 30 families today, Stephanie Mills said, if more than 30 show up, they’ll try to find a way to accommodate everyone.

In April, Kionna was crowned 2013 Miss Virginia American Junior Teen in the Miss Coed Virginia Pageant, she said. Her pageant coach, Thomas Stokes, has been working with her for about four years. In that time, she’s competed in eight pageants and won six titles.

“She just did the first one for fun,” Stephanie Mills said, “but she caught the pageant bug.”

Pageant life isn’t always glamorous, however. When Kionna competed in a pageant in Florida during Thanksgiving week, she asked her family if they wanted to join her in an experiment.

The family enjoys watching Steve Harvey and Tyler Perry, Stephanie Mills said, and both stars have spoken about times in their lives when they were homeless and living in their cars.

That gave the civic-minded Kionna an idea.

The first night they arrived in Florida, Kionna said, “We stayed in our car to see how it would feel to be homeless. When we got there, we got dressed in Pizza Hut’s bathroom. We brushed our teeth in the parking lot. That night, we stayed in a McDonald’s parking lot and used the bathrooms at McDonald’s.”

The experiment was a learning experience for the whole family, Stephanie Mills said.

“It made us appreciate what we do have,” she said. “The times that we struggle… maybe we might run out of money before the end of the month. Well, some of these people don’t have money to start the month.”

Even knowing that it was only one night, Stephanie Mills said, the experience was eye-opening for the whole family.

“We knew we were coming out of that situation,” she said. “But what about the people who aren’t?”


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