UACES Facebook Miller County extension agent organizes donation drive for Little Rock tornado victims
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Miller County extension agent organizes donation drive for Little Rock tornado victims 

By Rebekah Hall
U of A System Division of Agriculture

April 26, 2023

Fast Facts:

  • McKenzie Rigdon, Miller County extension 4-H agent, organized donation drive
  • Rigdon: ‘It’s a personal thing for me.’
  • Rigdon experienced tornado destruction in hometown of Vilonia
  • More than 670 items collected

(642 words)

(Newsrooms: With photos from the donation drop-off)

(Newsrooms: ‘Carlie Keahey’ and ‘MaKenzie Larey’ are cq)

LITTLE ROCK — For McKenzie Rigdon, the urge to help those affected by the March 31 tornadoes stemmed from personal experience with the harm a tornado can cause.


MILLER COUNTY HELPERS — McKenzie Rigdon, Miller County extension 4-H agent, organized a donation drive for victims of the March 31 tornado that struck parts of southern and central Arkansas. For Rigdon, the effort stemmed from her personal experience with tornado destruction. She said she wanted to bring along 4-H'ers for the donation drop-off to set an example of community service. From left to right: McKenzie Rigdon, MaKenzie Larey, Carlie Keahey, J.D. Martin and Tori Luker, Miller County extension Family and Consumer Sciences agent. (Rebekah Hall | Division of Agriculture photo.) 

Rigdon, Miller County extension 4-H agent for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture, said she lived in Atkins, Arkansas, when a tornado struck the area in 2008, causing damage to her family’s home. In 2011, her grandparents’ farm was hit by a tornado near Ozark. When a tornado came through her hometown of Vilonia in 2014, she said she witnessed widespread destruction to her community.

“I lost my job because of the tornado. My best friend was in a house that got hit, so it’s a personal thing for me,” Rigdon said. “I can’t donate my time to help right now, so I felt like I needed to do the next best thing, which was gathering relief items.”

Rigdon said she had the idea to start a donation drive and fill up a 4-H trailer with supplies for victims of the tornado, which would then be delivered to Little Rock. She created a flier and posted it at local businesses and at the Four States Fairgrounds in Texarkana. She also shared it on social media. Rigdon said that through word of mouth, local schools and churches heard about the drive and gathered donations for the effort. Rigdon said Sevier County Extension also provided relief items.

“No donation is too small,” Rigdon said. “With this kind of thing, people need anything and everything you can think of. So, even if it’s a notebook for the kid who lost their backpack or a box of Band-Aids — everything is going to help someone in need.”

Rigdon cataloged all of the 672 items donated to the drive, including canned food, hygiene and baby products, dozens of cases of bottled water and more.

‘I pledge my hands to larger service’

On April 24, Rigdon and Tori Luker, Miller County extension Family and Consumer Sciences agent, along with Miller County 4-H members Carlie Keahey, MaKenzie Larey and J.D. Martin, drove from Texarkana to Little Rock with the 4-H trailer in tow. They donated all the items to the City Center, a ministry of Immanuel Baptist Church, to be distributed to tornado victims. 

After placing the final case of bottled water atop the large pile of items, Rigdon was overcome with emotion. She said she brought 4-H members along for the drop-off because the project ties back to the mission of the organization.

“The four H’s are head, heart, hands and health. The big one that stands out today is ‘hands for larger service,’” Rigdon said, wiping away a few tears. “It teaches these kids about community service and making a difference in your community. And I want them to know that they have an agent who cares and who wants to do the best that they can. I like to lead by example, so I want them to see this example that I’m putting forth. Because it’s big. I hope that I’m a good role model for them.”

Keahey, 17, has been a member of the Miller County 4-H Club for three years, and she said she came along for the donation drop-off because she wanted to give to those in need.

“I very much enjoy helping out the community around me,” Keahey said. “I love helping McKenzie with all her shenanigans she pulls me into. It makes me feel good to help out with stuff like this. Throughout the past three years in 4-H, I’ve grown so much personally, and this helps me grow in my leadership. I love how much I’ve learned through 4-H.”

For more information about 4-H, contact your local county extension agent or visit

To learn about extension programs in Arkansas, contact your local Cooperative Extension Service agent or visit Follow us on Twitter and Instagram at @AR_Extension. To learn more about Division of Agriculture research, visit the Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station website: Follow on Twitter at @ArkAgResearch. To learn more about the Division of Agriculture, visit Follow us on Twitter at @AgInArk.

About the Division of Agriculture

The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture’s mission is to strengthen agriculture, communities, and families by connecting trusted research to the adoption of best practices. Through the Agricultural Experiment Station and the Cooperative Extension Service, the Division of Agriculture conducts research and extension work within the nation’s historic land grant education system. 

The Division of Agriculture is one of 20 entities within the University of Arkansas System. It has offices in all 75 counties in Arkansas and faculty on five system campuses.  

The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture offers all its Extension and Research programs to all eligible persons without regard to race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.

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Media Contact:
Rebekah Hall