A Creative Visionary Giving Back to Her Community
Dynamic Panola County Extension Agent Vickie Lacy is a perennial student, teacher, creative dynamo, and extraordinary visionary—a true Renaissance Woman who always keeps many irons in many fires.
Raised in Carthage by parents Billy and Nell Langford, her formal education has included several degrees. She received a Bachelor of Science Degree from the University of North Texas in Denton with an emphasis in clothing design and fashion merchandising. “Mrs. Naomi Phillips was my guidance counselor in high school,” she says. “She had gone to North Texas and taught home economics for many years. I admired her so much that it was easy for her to influence me to follow in her footsteps.” She furthered her studies with an M.S. and Ph.D. in Educational Administration/Business Management from Texas A&M University in College Station. Since earning her Ph.D., she has achieved an M.A. in School Counseling from UT Tyler and a certification as a Law of Attraction Life Coach from the Quantum Success Coaching Academy.
Her ongoing education, however, is endless. “I have a great sense of adventure, and I love to learn and do new things,” she says. “My daddy was an entrepreneur and has always had ‘an idea,’ and I guess I really never run out of ideas, either!”
Vickie explains that there are two separate areas served by County Extension Agents. Her position is in Family and Community Health Education. The other position, held by Extension Agent Lee Dudley, is in Agriculture and Natural Resources. “Lee provides all kinds of updates and education to our ranchers and homeowners, keeping them informed and helping find solutions to problems,” she says. Both programs are part of Texas A&M Agrilife Extension (TAEX) and provide informal education in the community for adults as well as youth, based on research generated by Texas A&M, the land grant university in Texas. The TAEX organization provides educational outreach of all kinds to every county in the state, in cooperation with the County Commissioner Courts.
Vickie held this same position from 1979 to 1984 in Pecos and Wharton Counties, then worked in education, both in public schools as a home economics teacher and at Texas A&M in teacher preparation classes in their College of Education. Five years ago, her mother called her to tell her that the extension agent here had told her quilting club that she was retiring and moving out of state. “My parents were in fragile health,” she says, “and I was also ready to get back into the job, so it was a perfect time to move back. I have a real need to give back to this community that raised me! I love the idea of being able to make relevant contributions for what people need right now in their daily lives. We can provide dynamic programming wherever we see a need, and then get to watch the changes happen!”
The Extension Service features many banner programs, including Walk Across Texas, community weight loss programs and contests, diabetes information and cooking programs and other hands-on cooking events, a food preservation program that includes food drying and pressure canning, and many others. It also features many activities for youth, including 4H (the oldest youth organization in the country at over 100 years old), participation in the very dynamic Panola County Junior Livestock Show, and 4H food shows and challenges that include participation at the State Fair and the Houston Livestock Show.
“There is so much to the Extension Agent’s job,” Vickie says. “Former agent Margaret Caldwell says it’s a little like the blind man trying to describe an elephant as he depends on touch to figure out what it looks like.” She adds that some quilters had asked Margaret to help start a local quilt guild several years ago, and now there are two strong, dynamic quilting groups who meet monthly. The quilters’ work became so well recognized that Carthage Main Street was asked to put on a big quilt show here, and our wonderful Piney Woods Quilt Show was born.
Vickie also enjoys serving on the Community Development Committee of the Chamber of Commerce and works closely with Chamber President Tommie Ritter Smith and Main Street Director Cindy Deloney. “It is a pleasure to work with those dynamic and energetic ladies,” she says. “Our downtown is thriving because of the way these programs support the historical integrity and give such zest for the downtown businesses. It is so important that we celebrate the historic roots of the community in the center of town. It’s part of the heart and soul of the community. I am pleased to be part of a group that wants to figure out ways we can work together to better serve our community and make it a better place to live. I am also so glad we had such great leaders in economic development in the past who realized the value of a college, a hospital, a lake, and the like. It’s satisfying to follow these visionaries and also be part of a new vision!”
Another of Vickie’s great passions is her love for creating wearable fiber art. She will be having a one-woman show at Panola College February 26-April 5 which will display many of the spectacular garments she has created. The show is titled, “Stepping On to My Straighter Path,” and the idea for the title came from the name of her website, straighterpath.com. Through the site and her business as a motivational speaker and coach, she helps people, especially artists and mid-life women, unblock their creativity and navigate the stressful issues and changes that come with life. Many of the unusual and exquisite pieces are made with items she has collected over the past 30 years, and all have some special meaning to her.
“My love affair with fabrics is rooted in found things: an excitement with old fabrics, laces, trims, buttons and beads,” she explains. “Along my path I have discovered textured fabrics and special stitching techniques, and new ways to bring them together. I love having an artistic way to make clothing using quilting techniques and to celebrate ethnic clothing with needle art.” Twice honored as one of the top 50 wearable art designers in the United States, Vickie has had her work featured in many important and well-known shows and competitions all over the country.
“I believe that when people really use their gifts and talents, it is nurturing to the soul,” she says. “My favorite proverb says, ‘He who does not use his talents to help heal himself is brother to the man who commits suicide.’ I know that art is a healer for many people, and certainly for me, but I think anything we do that uses our talents gets down in our souls, builds our confidence, and makes us healthier mentally and emotionally.”