“Where else can you go live and get waited on hand and foot?” asks Linda Slay about living at El Reposo Nursing Facility in Florence. “It’s a home away from home. I enjoy having someone around and never being alone.”

After having a stroke, one of Ms. Slay’s daughters wanted her nearby. So, she lived in Atlanta, Georgia, for four years in another facility.

“It was a good place, but there is nothing like the love, care and hospitality of good ole’ Alabama people,” said Ms. Slay. “I have always wanted to stay close to home. When I was able, my family moved me back to the Florence area.”

“Living in the nursing home has made me a stronger person and feel more love for my elderly community,” said Ms. Slay. “With therapy, love and time, I have gotten stronger over the years. Now, I do my best to help others.”

Last autumn, she headed up a “Pillow Project” with the idea to let people know that nursing home residents give back, too. El Reposo Nursing Facility had a large yard sale and used the proceeds for pillow supplies.

“All of our families got involved with the pillow project, with Ms. Slay doing a lot of the sewing,” said Beth Anerton, Administrator at El Reposo Nursing Facility. “When we were done, Ms. Slay sewed little hearts with ‘El Reposo’ on each pillow. She wanted the pillows donated to people in hospice and cancer centers, and to the heart association and to ambulance services.”

Ms. Slay reflects, “After I retired as a medical transcriptionist in a doctor’s office for 19 years, my husband wanted me to go with him on the road. So, I got my commercial driver’s license and we team drove for R&D Trucking all over the United States. It was a great experience for a small town girl to see the country. I have seen every state in the U.S. except Alaska. Not a one of them is more beautiful than Alabama.”

For the past few years, Ms. Slay just wanted to watch the nursing home pageants. Last year, her best friend was crowned Ms. El Reposo and she got to attend the pageant in Birmingham with her.

“This year, I asked Ms. Slay to participate in the pageant and she said, ‘Oh, what the heck? I will give it a try,’” said Ginger McFall, Activity Director at El Reposo Nursing Facility. “When she won, the surprised look on her face was priceless.”

Ms. Slay has two daughters, give grandchildren and two great grandchildren.

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For more information about the pageant, click here.

Editor’s note: This is the fifth story in a 10-part series about the finalists for the 2016 Ms. Alabama Nursing Home Pageant. On July 18, we’ll post a story about Ms. Florence Nursing & Rehab Center Betty Yates.

Stacy Smith, APR, is a freelance writer based in Birmingham, Alabama.