JACKSON, Miss. (WJTV) – Superheroes may not exist, but one Jackson woman is being described as one by members of her community.

Southern Echo is a nonprofit organization that strives to empower low-income communities across the state by providing resources, training and technical assistance.

Rachel Mayes was named executive director in 2016. She hasn’t spent much time out of the office since. She’s often out in the field, doing her part to live up to Southern Echo’s vision.

“I’m just one person in Mississippi trying to do good. I feel like it’s my place. It’s my calling,” she said.

Before the pandemic, Mayes spent much of her time educating people on the 2020 census and its importance.

“We were working across the state in 40 counties that we had targeted at that time to make sure that people across the state were being counted because we know the census impacts us as a state financially. We also know that the census feeds into the redistricting process,” she said.

Once the pandemic hit, she hit the ground running, hosting food, vegetable and PPE supplies giveaways. Mayes was even invited to a White House summit on COVID-19 equity.

“Mississippi is a place that needs a lot when we look at the marginalized communities, when we look at the BIPOC communities, when we look at COVID-19 and the many inequities that were exposed that were already there.”

After the 2021 ice storm and after Jackson’s water system failure last year, Mayes sprang into action, working with other organizations to distribute thousands of cases of water to Jacksonians.

“We felt the need and saw the need to provide food and water to Jacksonians. We’ve had great a response and our hearts are warm each time we go out and engage with the community.”

Mayes works with Jackson’s youth, as well. She created the Youth Empowerment for Scholars program that educates kids ages eight to 18 in leadership development and traditional academics. The program also helps her train local educators.

“We educate adults at the same time we educate youth in order to prepare youth to understand STEM subjects and be exposed to those STEM subjects. Also, to understand Black history and to provide exposure to youth, it’s important that we take on this work and we help them to see that they can be all that they want to be.”

Mayes also puts together analysis on legislative bills and political candidates to help keep the public informed.

Overall, she has a passion for bettering her community that’s shown through her work every single day.