Tinsley joyfully serves breakfast at the Shepura Men’s Center

While most 12-year-old girls are busy with parties and rapidly spending their gift money, Tinsley is doing something very different; she has traveled to another state and woken up at 5 a.m. on a Sunday morning to serve breakfast to the clients at the Shepura Men’s Center.

Tinsley is no newcomer to the Mission. She visits the facility about two to three times per year with her grandmother Becky, and this is the third consecutive year she has chosen to spend her birthday serving others.

“I’ve kind of always liked helping people,” she said. “It just has a good feeling and you feel proud afterward. It’s better than using all of your money to just buy gifts because those things just wear away and this will last in your heart forever.”

The Starkville, Mississippi, native not only donated the lion’s share of her birthday fund to this one-of-a-kind breakfast, but also sold chocolate-covered strawberries, conducted a bake sale at her home church, and organized dog sitting and walking services to earn the extra money needed to purchase the ingredients.

Tinsley, her mother Missy, and family friends Christina, Ali Grace, and Kate spent several hours creating 15 trays of the mouth-watering breakfast casserole and baked nearly 150 blueberry muffins. The crew also provided diced cantaloupe to round out the meal.

Breakfast Casserole


Blueberry Muffins

Before food service began, Art from the kitchen staff introduced Tinsley and her family and friends to the line of clients lined up along the dining room walls. He told the men about her journey and her birthday gift to the Mission and before the she could resume her post behind the counter, a voice in the crowd began singing “Happy Birthday.” Within moments, the room was filled with the singing of nearly 100 men celebrating the special day of a very special young lady.

Tinsley gets animated next to grandmother Becky as the men begin singing “Happy Birthday” before the meal

The rest of the morning was filled with nothing but smiles. Comments like “This is delicious,” “I need this recipe,” “Thank you so much,” and, of course, “Happy Birthday” found their way over the countertop and into the ears of the servant as she and her family and friends sent plate after plate down the line.

The young chef hopes to keep this September tradition alive and the clients at the Men’s Center have no complaints, except maybe the year-long wait for more of her signature casserole.

Tinsley is quickly following in her grandmother’s footsteps. Becky has been involved with the Mission for more than eight years and serves as the volunteer coordinator at Hunter Street Baptist Church where groups have long been providing graduation meals at the Men’s Center every other Sunday evening.

Tinsley not only serves at the Mission, but also participates in Christmas shoe box drives at her home congregation.

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