NELSONVILLE – One Nelsonville native and Ohio University student is taking a stand against local homelessness in her own way: through children’s books.
Mackenzie Perry, born and raised in Nelsonville, recognized a problem in her community from an early age. Attending Nelsonville-York schools, Perry learned the real-world consequences of homelessness in Athens County.
“There is a very real chance they will know another child who is homeless,” Perry said of Nelsonville-York students, and her experience going through the school.
In order to raise awareness about homelessness in the county, and to address the complex issue of housing insecurity in a way children can understand, Perry set out to write a children’s book that explains these issues.
“This book was written as a way to connect with a younger audience,” Perry said. At times, it’s hard for children to see these complex issues and relate to it.”
Titled “A Mouse in the House! Izzy finds a home,” the story follows Perry’s ventriloquist puppet Izzy as she struggles with homelessness. Izzy struggles with finding a home, and learns throughout the book how that search has changed their outlook and how we treat and empathize with others, Perry said.
Perry wrote the book as part of a charitable venture, with all proceeds from the book sale benefitting Timothy House, the only homeless shelter in Athens County, Perry said.
“If you can’t get in there – there’s really no other resources for you in this county,” Perry said. “Appalachia is an example of the resources simply not being there to pull people out of poverty.”
Perry, an Ohio University senior studying international business and strategic leadership, is also a participant in Miss America 2.0, which has put emphasis on charitable works and no longer judges contestants based on their physical appearance, its website states.
Through Miss America 2.0, Perry developed a platform focused on increasing awareness of rural homelessness and poverty in Appalachia. The book came to fruition through her work as Miss Miami Valley, a title she won in 2020.
She pointed to Joe Burrow’s Heisman Trophy acceptance speech where Burrow described the poverty some face in the county, stating that he said it best.
“That’s a very real lifestyle in Appalachia for many people,” Perry said.
Beyond authoring books, Perry also puts together “Kenzie Kits,” which contain essentials those suffering from homelessness need most: socks and gloves, food, water and personal hygiene equipment.
Perry, who started this initiative a few years ago, said she distributes these care kits to Timothy House or to those who the shelter has to turn down – or if she just sees someone in need.
Perry’s book is currently being published and should be available by the end of January. Those seeking to purchase copies of the book should email Perry at firstname.lastname@example.org, and a website for sales will be available soon.