More than meets the eye… Hollifield uses pageants as way to promote helping others

Published 1:34 pm Monday, April 18, 2022

Some people say beauty is only skin deep, but for Kaylee Hollifield beauty ebbs all the way to her heart and beyond.

The Elizabethton High School student recently was crowned Miss Tennessee during the AmeriFest National Pageant in Pigeon Forge and will represent Tennessee at the National Pageant in Indiana later in 2022.

But Kaylee began her community outreach just before her 10th birthday when she and her mother, Monica, made a trip to the Good Samaritan Ministries in Johnson City to donate food. She remembers hearing that the pantry may not have enough food to share at Thanksgiving and seeing an empty freezer at the food pantry.

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Hollifield decided that she wanted to make a difference so with her mom’s permission, she gathered several items that she didn’t use anymore and held a garage sale as well as asking for money for her upcoming birthday.

She took the money from the garage sale and her birthday and purchased as many turkeys as she could from the Save A Lot grocery story in Elizabethton. A local television station picked up on the story, and after it aired a local man was inspired to go and purchase the rest of the turkeys needed for Thanksgiving.

It was the beginning of her personal platform — Kaylee’s Helping Hands. And it is the reason pageants mean so much more to Hollifield than just putting on pretty dresses and gowns.

“Winning state and national titles in years past has helped me to broaden my platform and take it to surrounding states like North Carolina, South Carolina, Kentucky, Florida, and here in Tennessee,” Hollifield said. “I have been in homeless shelters for men, women, and children where I have seen a lot. It has taught me how blessed that I am.”

Hollifield said she has been to talk with these people, help serve a hot meal, wish them a Happy Thanksgiving, and play and talk to the children.

“There is no greater feeling than seeing a smile on someone’s face or to see their face light up a little because of what you did for them,” Hollifield said. “It’s more rewarding than winning any pageant or any of my crowns or my sashes.”

She tries to share the message of getting involved with the community to other young people that she encounters by letting them know that there is always a need no matter how big or small. “All of these people have had a lot of hardship and they are sad and depressed,” said Hollifield. “All they need is to be shown love and that someone cares about them.”

Hollifield plans to attend ETSU to obtain a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology with a minor in Foreign Language which she hopes translates into a job with the FBI. She plans on being actively involved within her community promoting her own personal platform of Kaylee’s Helping Hands with a long-term goal of opening permanent housing for the homeless and less fortunate.

“To show each and every person that life is short and precious and every second counts as every day is a blessing,” said Hollifield. “It is better to give than to receive — it’s far more rewarding.”