It’s particularly fulfilling because of where she is working as a secretary — her church home for more than three decades.
“This church is a special place for me and my family, and I have been active as a volunteer in many ways here,” she said. “I see my work here as secretary, although it is a paid position, as yet another way I can serve the church I love.”
Atkins taught in the Danville system for 16 years before leaving the district to teach in Fayette and Mercer counties. She ended her career as an educator serving as a principal in the Shelby County school system. She commuted to all of those jobs.
She still serves as a substitute teacher in several area districts.
Meanwhile, she and her husband, James H. Atkins Jr., assistant vice president of academic affairs at Centre College who served for many years as a teacher and principal in the Danville district, raised two sons.
Although the Atkinses have held different jobs and their sons are now grown, one thing has remained constant — their membership in, service to and love for First Baptist, where they have attended church since 1976.
“We all have been very active in the life of the church,” she says. “As for me, I sung in the old Glee Club and now sing in the church’s men’s and women’s Voices of Praise choir, and I have been a Sunday school teacher, a volunteer in our weekly senior citizens’ lunch program and volunteered wherever else I can help.”
Particularly likes sponsoring Nan Graves Award
One activity that brings her a lot of joy is serving as sponsor for the annual Nan Graves Award, given by the church every October in honor of a longtime church member and custodian.
“Nan was the kind of person who did things for people but they didn’t know she was the one doing them,” Atkins said, adding that Graves was “like a grandmother” to her.
“She was unsung, unrecognized for the many kind things she did for people, and she wanted it that way. This award, which we give during the month of her birthday, is given to people just like Nan.”
Atkins said First Baptist has been a “lifeline for my family” and “like a hospital for our souls.”
“This church is a place where you can take life’s stresses, trials and tribulations and have them handled not only by the lord but also by loving and caring fellow parishioners,” she said. “You have fellowship with people who believe in the same lord Jesus Christ and are your church family.”
As church secretary, Atkins said that fellowship has grown larger and stronger, and so has her connection to the greater Danville community.
“In this position, I meet with and talk to elders, deacons and members on a daily basis, and I try to help with what they do and also share information,” she said. “I serve leaders, committees, individuals, new members, old members, young members — the whole church.”
Atkins said her role also is to work with people outside First Baptist.
“People call here or drop by seeking all kinds of things, from information about the church to help with a problem or situation,” she said. “In the role I have of dealing with the community, I provide information, I make referrals to people or agencies who can help with certain situations or problems, and I just try to help in whatever way I can.”
In both her internal and external roles, Atkins tries to follow the advice she used to give her students.
“As a secretary, you are the person that just about everybody at the place you work comes in contact with, and you also are the person most people outside where you work come in contact with,” she said. “In addition to being as helpful and efficient as possible, you need to be as warm, welcoming and friendly as possible. You need to be a people person.”