By Kinnidy Thoreson, Contributing Writer
On her journey to the Miss South Carolina Teen competition, Kirby Helms has become a community leader.
Helms was crowned Miss Woodruff Teen 2020 at the Miss Woodruff & Miss Woodruff Teen pageant last October at Woodruff’s City Hall auditorium. A sophomore at Broome High School, and at 15-years-old, Helms has already gone to innumerable measures for her community.
Helms volunteers with Meals on Wheels and Blessings in a Backpack. She also makes donations to the blessings box at the Agape Care Center in Woodruff.
With the outbreak of the coronavirus, Helms shifted her focus to making face masks.
“I had seen a bunch of people begin making the mask, but then I saw where Pink on Main in Spartanburg was making them with the Lilly Pulitzer fabric and they needed help, so I decided it would be a good opportunity to reach out,” says Helms. A valiant and unique effort, considering sewing is no longer a common skill for teenagers. Helms says that her mom began teaching her to sew when she was 9 years old, and she even has her own sewing machine!
Helm’s efforts towards relief for this pandemic does not stop with face masks. Her favorite service project was making Easter baskets for nurses with Miss Woodruff, Charlize Simmons.
“I got to spend time not only giving back to the people on our frontlines during this tragic time, but I also got to work with and spend time with Miss Woodruff Charlize Simmons.” Helms was thrilled to have the chance to hang out with Simmons and “represent Woodruff together and still give back even with this pandemic.”
As Miss Woodruff Teen, Helms represents the Woodruff community and makes public appearances, such as at the February ribbon cutting ceremony of the McKinney Park Streetscape Project. Once the COVID-19 pandemic is over, Helm would like to take her community service efforts to her hometown of Pacolet.
With no requirement that contestants reside in the locale of the pageant title, Helms says that she chose to compete in the Woodruff pageant because of lead executive director, Stephanie Neale. “She does a wonderful job helping and preparing her girls for state,” Helms writes, “so I decided I wanted to come back and compete again with her.”
Neale is the owner and director of the Young Miss & Master Woodruff pageant and Miss Woodruff & Miss Woodruff Teen pageant. Neale says that Helms has more than exceeded her expectations. “She is the first Miss Woodruff Teen winner to take the title to state and she hit the ground running as soon as she was crowned,” says Neale. “Whether or not she brings that state crown home in August, she has made me proud beyond words.”
Neale’s Woodruff pageant is one of the local pageants that qualifies contestants for the Miss South Carolina competition. Miss South Carolina is a scholarship organization with a mission to advance community service and educational opportunities for young women in the state. The organization gives out more than $200,000 in scholarships each year. Miss and Teen contestants with the most service hours and the most sponsorships raised receive a scholarship award. The Miss South Carolina winner receives a $60,000 scholarship, the highest of any state pageant in the nation.
Though the state pageant has been postponed to the last week of July, with the finals airing on television on August 1, Helms is using this extra time to reach her goal of 500 service hours this year and seek out further sponsorships for her campaign. In the two years Helms has competed in the Miss South Carolina Organization, she has amassed more than 750 volunteer hours and is working to reach 1000 hours.
Helms, however, says that service is her passion. “I have always been active in my community and I really just want to be able to give back and make others feel supported and happy.”
She adds: “Throughout my time competing, I have learned the true meaning behind pageants is giving back to your community and the friendships that you make along the way. As you compete in pageants you not only represent yourself, you represent the town, city, or state that your title holds. I find this so important to know that the true meaning behind pageant is service.”