Delaware's top two youth volunteers of 2017, Kayleigh Barnes, age 18, of Bridgeville; and Rachel Mackie, 13, of Dover, were recently honored in Washington, D.C., for their volunteer service during the 22nd annual presentation of The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards.

Barnes and Mackie — along with 100 other top youth volunteers from across the country — each received $1,000 awards and personal congratulations from Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps at an award ceremony and gala dinner reception held at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History.

The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards program, sponsored by Prudential Financial in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals, named Barnes and Mackie Delaware's top high school and middle level youth volunteers in February. In addition to their cash awards, they each received an engraved silver medallion and an all-expense-paid trip with a parent to Washington, D.C., for four days of recognition events.

Barnes, a member of the American Red Cross in Wilmington and a senior at Sussex Academy of Arts and Sciences, founded an organization dedicated to improving the lives of young women through mentoring and community service, an organization now made up of more than 120 young women in nine states. Barnes’ group has conducted service projects, such as donating school supplies, helping kids in need celebrate Halloween, collecting food and clothing for the homeless, instigating random acts of kindness across the country and volunteering at Red Cross events.

Mackie, a member of Kent County 4-H and a seventh-grader at Holy Cross School, spearheaded an effort to collect more than 900 items for the homeless in her county and helped bring holiday cheer to a center for the homeless by providing a fully decorated Christmas tree. Mackie was president of her 4-H Club when she “stumbled” onto Code Purple, a statewide organization that helps homeless people find shelter in churches or other designated buildings when the temperature plunges to 32 degrees Fahrenheit or lower.

Under Mackie’s leadership, 4-H members launched a collection drive in partnership with a local physical therapy group. They wrote letters to attract donations and distributed fliers to publicize their drive. Mackie collected donations of clothing, food, and other supplies and delivered them to the Code Purple House in Dover. Then, working with her knitting club, she provided 50 hats for Code Purple to distribute. And, after asking a church to donate a Christmas tree, Mackie and her club made more than 200 ornaments, and then set up the tree at the Code Purple House.

The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards program was created in 1995 to identify and recognize young people for outstanding volunteer service.. In the past 22 years, the program has honored more than 120,000 young volunteers at the local, state and national level.

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