Editor’s note: Today, The DAILY LEADERcontinues a series of stories compiled by University of Mississippijournalism students during a field trip to Lincoln County in lateOctober. Today’s feature is on Debra Byrd, who volunteers in avariety of ways at Enterprise Attendance Center.
Debra Byrd never imagined that she would follow in her mother’sfootsteps and volunteer. And volunteer. And volunteer.
“I thought she was crazyfor doing it all,” Byrd said.
Byrd’s mother volunteeredat the school the whole time Byrd was in high school, helping withbake sale after bake sale. Now, much to her surprise, Byrd is thego-to-girl at Enterprise Attendance Center, her own kids’ highschool.
Byrd’s career ofvolunteerism began when her daughter Crystal, now 17, was inkindergarten. Crystal’s teacher called Byrd to ask her to help withthe state testing, and the volunteering snowballed from there.
Byrd served for two yearsas secretary of the Parent/Teacher Organization. She has alsoserved the school in many other ways organizing Beta Club activities,doing fundraisers for the school, serving as a substitute teacher,and helping anywhere else she is needed.
Principal Shannon Eubanks can’t recall a single moment in the eightyears he has been at Enterprise when Byrd was not an involvedparent.
“I tell you what, without Debra, if we didn’t have her here,helping and volunteering, we wouldn’t be nearly as successful asfar as our clubs and our organizations,” Eubanks said.
It is not as if Byrd has a lot of time to burn. She owns Joe Byrdand Associates, a landscaping company. She also serves as executivedirector for the Mississippi Association of ProfessionalSurveyors.
How does she have time for such a demanding job plus all of thatvolunteering?
To Byrd, it’s simple, really. Volunteering is not an optionalhobby; it is an important obligation, an essential part ofparenting.
“I just do it. You maketime for what you have to do,” she said.
Volunteering at her kids’ high school helps keep them active andout of trouble, according to Byrd. She believes it can do the samething for other kids.
“You need to know what’s going on with the school, and the only wayyou can know is to be up there every now and then,” Byrd said.
In her “free time,” Byrd enjoys sewing and cooking. She uses thesehobbies to help the school even more.
Byrd began sewing when her son was a baby, when it was hard to findclothes for him because of his short legs.
Now, she often sews costumes or drapes for Beta Club skits. Shealso sews costumes for her daughter’s dance group.
Some busy parents might see this as a burden. But to Byrd, it is ahaven of relaxation.
“It’s kind of a release of the stress when you’re sewing becauseyou’re concentrating on that,” she said.
Byrd also enjoys cooking and says the children particularly enjoyher sweets – brownies, cookies and cakes.
“That’s what the kids like about me most,” she said through achuckle.
One of Byrd’s favorite volunteer activities is taking the studentsto Beta Club conventions.
“Some of these kids may never go outside of Mississippi, but withBeta we can get them out there. They get to meet kids from allover,” Byrd said.
She laughed as she recounted pranks the children have played duringthese trips.
“We have a lot of fun,” she said.
Byrd also coached both her son’s and daughter’s soccer teams.
Though she had never played soccer, she grew up around her brotherplaying, so she knew a good bit about it. When her children began to play, sheknew it was time to get involved.
“I really enjoyed coaching soccer, teaching the kids how to play.It was a lot of fun,” she said.
Byrd’s son Joey, 24, graduated from Enterprise and now works at thefamily business, along with his wife. Joey’s son, Joey Jr., whoByrd calls J.J., offers another example of Byrd’s dedication tochildren.
Sitting atop Byrd’s desk are two rubber ducks, and in the corner ofthe room is a play area complete with a camouflage bean bag andblue storage bin overflowing with toys. Pictures of her grandson and otherfamily members adorn the wall above her desk.
“That’s another full-time job,” Byrd said with a smile.
Byrd plans to continue volunteering even when her daughter, now asenior, graduates in the spring.
“It’s just something you do, what’s got to be done to help theschool, so it’s a better experience for the kids,” she said.