Doing the “Heart” Work

Two older women wearing blue MHV t-shirts sitting at a table overspread with papers.
Bonita Davenport Reed, left, and Lillian Clark Edney, MHV members in Adams County

Serving Others

MHV group embodies organization’s mission

Story by Susan Collins-Smith • Photos by Kevin Hudson

Lillian Clark Edney and Bonita Davenport Reed have been teammates since they were teachers in the Natchez-Adams School District.

“We used to team teach long before that was done,” explains Edney, who taught math and science for 26 years. “We always felt like tapping into each other’s skills made us better teachers. If there was something one of us was better at or had more expertise in, we always consulted with each other on those things. So, our lives have intersected for a long time.”

Now, she and Reed, who is also retired from teaching math and science after more than 39 years, still live by that philosophy. But the team of two has expanded to around 20 members.

After retirement, they joined the Catherine Williams Mississippi Homemaker Volunteer Club in Adams County, named after a longtime home economist in the county. MHV groups do several different types of volunteer projects that benefit their communities and other communities in Mississippi and the world.

The club is facilitated by the Mississippi State University Extension Service, and its members are committed to strengthening personal, family, and community life.

“We believe that we are better together than apart,” Reed says. “As a group, we benefit from everyone’s ideas, creativity, and talents.”

A woman with dark hair wearing a blue shirt working at a sewing machine.
Catherine Williams MHV Club Projects 
  • making wheelchair totes and donating socks for nursing home residents
  • collecting and donating canned goods and cleaning products for Stewpot

Community Services in Jackson

  • sewing dresses and shirts for children in Haiti and other countries
  • crocheting hats for newborns at Children’s of Mississippi Hospital
  • packing shoe boxes for Samaritan’s Purse Operation Christmas Child
  • donating to Mississippi State Hospital and Ronald McDonald House
  • assisting with 4-H sewing and STEM projects
  • recycling paper and plastic products
  • planting flower beds at the Extension office

“Some people like to sew, while others prefer to iron, cut out, or clip threads,” Edney agrees.

“Whatever is needed, someone can do it. This working together enables the members to fellowship while volunteering with the community service projects. It makes us thankful for what we have and humbled that we are helping somebody else.”

Coming together to serve the community is part of the draw for many members.

“We just enjoy ourselves,” Reed says. “Most of our members are retired, so we are relaxed and not in a hurry. It provides an opportunity to become more involved in community activities. I joined right after I retired.”

The pandemic put a stop to in-person meetings and group gatherings at the Extension office to work on projects, but it didn’t stop the group.

A woman with white hair wearing a blue shirt working at a sewing machine.

Serving Locally, Regionally, and Statewide

Lillian Clark Edney

  • Adams County Council president, vice-president, and secretary
  • Southwest Region junior and senior director
  • Executive Board member

Bonita Davenport Reed

  • Southwest Region junior and senior director
  • State parliamentarian
  • State Executive Board member

In fact, one of their latest projects is helping educate their community about the COVID-19 vaccines. They have been working on the Good Health Women’s Immunization Network project, an effort of the National Council of Negro Women in partnership with MHV to build an army of good health champions who understand the importance of immunizations across the lifespan.

“Before COVID, we were really active, getting together bimonthly to work on projects,” Edney says. “We’ve still been very active; we just had to do things differently. We’re happy to be meeting in person again.”

Both Edney and Reed wholeheartedly believe in MHV’s mission of strengthening families and communities through education and community involvement. Currently, Edney is president and Reed is treasurer of their county council.

Extension agent Penny Rachal says many Extension programs rely on volunteers to be successful.

“This is a great group of ladies and gentlemen!” she exclaims. “They do a lot of good work in their community and other places. They’ve always been involved in local, regional, statewide, and international activities. I really enjoy working with them. People are my passion and the wind beneath my wings. This is why I get up in the morning. I am motivated by them to serve, wherever needed.”

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Extension Matters Volume 8 Number 2 Cover.