Jones sets good example for all of us

Published 12:11 am Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Anna Byrne Jones doesn’t do a lot of complaining

As a mother, grandmother and the manager of the Natchez Visitor Reception Center, Jones doesn’t have a lot of time to grumble.

Besides, Jones believes complaining doesn’t accomplish much unless you can back it up with action.

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Jones remembers a time when the entrance to Duncan Park was one of the most beautiful spots in the city.

As a child growing up by the park, Jones recalls family visits to the park each Easter. She remembers the annual picture taken beside the park’s azaleas filled with bright pink blooms.

“They were the most beautiful things — big and full of blooms,” Jones said. “ You looked forward to them blooming every spring.”

Jones said the last 20 years have been hard on azalea bushes.

In the last two decades, poison ivy and vines have slowly invaded the bushes.

“They were being strangled,” Jones said. “They were not getting light and not getting enough water,” Jones said.

But instead of complaining about a lost corner of the city — instead of grumbling every time she passed by the overgrown shrubs in her neighborhood, Jones decided she could do something.

“My family used to say you have no right to complain unless you are will to do something about it,” Jones said. “So, I decided to do something about it.”

Standing in front of the tangled mess of vines, Jones quickly realized the job was going to take more than one person to return the bushes to their former beauty.

She realized a small army of volunteers would be needed to do the job.

The task could have seemed overwhelming to many people — not for Jones.

Undeterred, Jones found a willing workforce at a local school.

Each year, high school students from Cathedral are required to commit a certain number of hours for community service. Many students are looking for service opportunities to complete their hours as the finals days of school approach.

By contacting the school, Jones found a group ready to spend an afternoon pulling vines, cutting out dead limbs and giving the bushes new life.

With Jones leading the way into the thorns, the students and coaches made a pile of vines and branches 6 feet high and 30 feet long.

Natchez landscaper and cross-country coach Tommy Smith provided guidance on what to remove and how to cut back the bushes.

A drive by the entrance today, reveals how much work Jones and the students were able to do in that one afternoon. Green shoots are beginning to emerge from the pruned branches.

For Jones, the experience was a “win-win-win” for the entire community.

“The city wins because it gets help maintaining the landscape, I win because I get the satisfaction of seeing the project get done and then the Cathedral students win because they were able to come together to complete their service hours,” Jones.

But the biggest win may be the example Jones sets for the community.

Instead of fuming every time she drove by the massive mess of vines and poison ivy, Jones took a decidedly different approach.

She identified a need, developed a plan and put the plan to work.

Most of all, she decided to become part of the solution instead of part of the problem.

In today’s ugly world of social media that makes it easy to complain without taking responsibility, Jones gives us a beautiful example for us all to follow.

Ben Hillyer is news editor for The Natchez Democrat. Reach him at or call him at 601-445-3549.