Blessing Others

Four women and two men stand spaced out in green grass.
From left are Josephine Tate, Reagan Williams, Landis Mickens, Jamiya Mason, Katherine Mickens, and Crayton Coleman.

Noxubee County volunteers make a difference through service

Story by Leah Barbour • Photos by Kevin Hudson

A man wearing a yellow shirt and blue mask and a woman wearing a pink shirt and floral mask stand next to each other, both holding a basket of fresh vegetables including tomatoes, bell peppers, and squash.
Landis and Katherine Mickens,
Noxubee County 4-H volunteers

Everybody who knows Landis and Katherine Mickens, who’ve lived in Noxubee County all their lives, knows they care about service. The Mickens’s ties to their Macon neighbors are strong and run deep, just like their 38-year marriage.

They are closely involved in their community. Landis, a District 2 county supervisor, agreed also to take on responsibility for District 3 after the untimely COVID-19 death of Sherman Patterson until a special election could be held. Katherine has spent her career as the sole social worker at Noxubee General Hospital, and she helped organize and now leads the local Healthy Noxubee County Coalition, a group of volunteers focused on improving community health.

Their goal is to work together within the community to produce noticeable improvements in individual lives and the entire neighborhood.

“If you’re blessed, bless somebody else,” Katherine asserts. “Show them how to be giving and what it looks like not to expect anything in return; that’s being a volunteer. We can have people realize that volunteering is a good thing. More people should be volunteers—pass it on!”

“When the Lord is blessing you,” Landis agrees, “it’s so you can be a blessing to someone else. We need to train up our young folks with that same attitude, so we need to be the role models and give. You don’t miss it when you give it away; the best feeling is to give what you have and get nothing back.”

Josephine Tate, who’s known Landis since they were in first grade together, asked the couple to volunteer about 7 years ago, when she first became a Mississippi State University Extension Service agent in Noxubee County. Tate is charged with overseeing the local 4-H youth development program.

Overhead shot of a brown wicker basket holding an assortment of vegetables including tomatoes, bell peppers, and squash.
Katherine Mickens leads the local Healthy
Noxubee County Coalition.

“Katherine and Landis—I don’t have anyone more dedicated than they are to helping,” Tate says. “They stay active in 4-H, and I can count on them to help me out—whatever I need. Katherine says she feels so blessed because she’s always striving to bless others.”

If any changes have come since the pandemic struck, it may only be that the Mickenses are more dedicated to service than ever before, says Crayton Coleman, also an Extension agent in Noxubee County.

“They want to give back. These are people with a good, solid foundation, and they give us a good, solid foundation for our 4-H program here in Noxubee County,” Coleman reflects. “We had been doing community gardens, but, with the pandemic, Katherine said to me, ‘What if 4-H’ers each did a container garden?’”

Organizations mobilized: The Healthy Noxubee County Coalition bought soil and seed. Farmers donated recycled seed containers. And volunteers delivered the supplies to 4-H’ers. 4-H leaders thought only a handful of children would participate, but 45 4-H’ers grew vegetables at home over the summer.

“The Mickenses were instrumental in making it happen,” Coleman explains. “We could not have done it without them. Their idea gave our kids something to do this summer. The feedback was great: Parents were excited, and grandparents were proud. Even the mayor said it was a great thing for us to be involved in. I’m glad we listened to our volunteers and did this project.”

Landis says the local Extension agents are open-minded and enthusiastic about supporting volunteers’ ideas for 4-H, and they really care about the children.

“Crayton and Josephine are both really professional, and they exemplify the job description for local Extension agents. They are teaching the things that they are living, too: respect,” Katherine agrees. “They are open and honest and transparent. We have a good working relationship.”


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