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Today is May 22, 2019

Meet the Mississippian named national president of The Garden Clubs of America

By Sandra M. Buckley

Meet the Mississippian named national president of The Garden Clubs of America

“It’s my goal, as I travel throughout our nation and internationally, that I share positive things about our state.” 
— Gay Austin, president, The Garden Clubs of America

Gay Austin of McComb is stepping into the prestigious role of president of The Garden Clubs of America, a volunteer-based nonprofit promoting horticulture, conservation and community service that represents nearly 20,000 individuals across the country.

Installed as president May 2, 2019, Austin will serve on the national level in this capacity through May 2021. In the club’s 106-year history, she is the second named president from Mississippi, with the first being Geraldine Dean of Leland in 1968. 

Austin appreciates all that growing up and living in southwest Mississippi has afforded her – and in this new position, she hopes to reflect not only her love of gardening but also her love of Mississippi. “It’s my goal, as I travel throughout our nation and internationally, that I share positive things about our state,” she said.

Looking back, Austin recognizes that membership in her local and statewide garden clubs provided her with valuable opportunities, experiences and knowledge that have ultimately prepared her for this leadership role. “I joined The McComb Garden Club in 1986,” she said. “Several years after that, I was asked to serve on The Garden Clubs of Mississippi state board. From that point forward, I continued to serve in various chairmanships and elected positions, finally serving as state president from 2009 until 2011.” 

Over the years, what she is grateful for and enjoys most about being involved in these garden clubs are “the educational opportunities, service to my community and state and lasting friendships with people who have similar interests,” she noted. “The McComb Garden Club has consistently supported civic responsibility through beautification projects, environmental responsibility and youth involvement. And, our state organization includes over 100 clubs throughout Mississippi, with each composed of dedicated volunteers whose love of their communities has inspired them to offer worthwhile programs to help their areas.” 

As springtime is now upon us, Austin shares that she especially loves Mississippi in May, as it is a vibrant, colorful and fragrant time of year. While most flower and vegetable gardens have already been planted by early May, the month certainly puts on a spectacular, springtime garden show – from fresh blooms of amaryllis and irises to ginger and gardenia shrubs and delicate annuals like begonias, impatiens, marigolds, verbena and zinnia.

As the seasons change, and no matter your level of gardening expertise, Austin encourages everyone to “just keep planting!” She added, “Not only will anyone who walks through your garden enjoy the beauty, but also you’ll be promoting food and protection for all of nature’s creatures – such as birds who are nesting during this time as well as many insects and amphibians.” 

In addition to caring for plants, she extends her nurturing character into her passion for people as a registered nurse and for pets as a volunteer and board member for the local animal shelter.

Austin is honored to bring her lifelong love for gardening to the national stage. “I’m humbled to serve as a national officer for The Garden Clubs of America,” she noted. “It’s my hope that I can inspire and strengthen those who I meet to continue our legacy of education and protection of our earth.”

Gay Austin is a member of Magnolia Electric Power.

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