Small girl with a big heart

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Virginia first lady Maureen McDonnell and Katie Goodman

Virginia first lady Maureen McDonnell and Katie Goodman

By Allison Hedrick

Katie Goodman, a member of the South Anna 4-H Club in Hanover County, Va., is gaining recognition for her work to feed the hungry.

“She just amazes me. She’s just this ordinary little girl who does extraordinary things,” said Rita Schalk, 4-H youth agent in Hanover County.

“Katie has a great deal of compassion for people. She was raised to be a hard worker and to do what she says she’s going to do. She put the two together and that’s why she is so successful.”

Katie, 12, has made combating hunger her mission. In addition to coordinating countless canned food drives for local pantries, she began a weekly program to provide fresh vegetables to children who attend the summer lunch program at John M. Gandy Elementary School. She also began the Garden Writers Association’s program, Plant a Row for the Hungry, in Hanover County. The program encourages local farmers to plant extra crops to donate to needy families. In addition, she started a Hunters for the Hungry program in her community that asks hunters to donate venison to local food banks.

So far, Katie has collected enough food and money to feed 6,773 people.

And it all started with 4-H.

In 2010, Katie competed in a 4-H public speaking contest, and the topic she chose was food insecurity in children.

“The information I learned really concerned me,” she said. “I found out that there are kids I go to school with who are struggling with hunger.”

Katie has been acknowledged for her work with many awards and honors, including recognition by Gov. Bob McDonnell and first lady Maureen McDonnell. In May 2012, she received the 2012 Governor’s Volunteerism Award in the youth category. In October, she was honored with the First Lady’s Opportunity Hall of Fame Award. In February 2013, the Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, a nationwide program honoring young people for outstanding acts of volunteerism, named her one of Virginia’s top two youth volunteers of the year.

“We didn’t know she had won the award until they called her name,” said Katie’s mother, Betty Kay. Katie received a standing ovation from the crowd that represented many Virginia businesses and organizations at the Governor’s Volunteerism Award ceremony.

“It was an honor,” Katie said.

Being the mother — and chauffeur — of such an ambitious and busy girl can be pretty exhausting sometimes, Kay said. The most exciting part is seeing Katie’s progress when she finishes a big project.

“It’s not one big thing that Katie does; it’s all the little things she does for the community,” Schalk said. “Her work is very simple. A lot of times it’s just poster board and magic markers.”

“There are good people in this world and they are willing to help; you just have to get the needed information to them,” Katie said. “Just because you are young doesn’t mean you cannot make a difference.”

Katie said she hopes to be a teacher or lawyer someday, or she might decide to work with horses and other animals. Whatever field she chooses, Katie is certain to make a difference.