By Stacy Smith

Driven into Birmingham by Hurricane Katrina over a decade ago, New Orleans native Annie Avery has made Alabama her home and reigns as Ms. East Glen Center for Nursing & Rehabilitation.

Full of spirit and fun, while living in New Orleans several years ago, she recounts the morning she looked at her newspaper and gasped. She was on front page. “I was on the Zooloos float at a Mardi Gras parade. I smile every time at the thought of that newspaper picture,” said Avery.

Intent on not letting the parades pass her by, she says that living in the nursing home “turned my light on.” East Glen Center has offered her opportunities to continue established interests and gain new interests.

“I have developed many relationships with a variety of people from many walks of life. Being a resident in a nursing home has encouraged me to share my love and compassion for others. It encourages me to continue my service work, and be as independent as I can be,” said Ms. Avery.

Avery was a leader in her New Orleans community. She brings that passion and leadership to East Glen Center, where she continues as a member of a daily community call in prayer line, and also has not only continued with her Ladies in Red group, she currently serves as president.

“The Ladies in Red meet twice a month to discuss highlighted residents, welcome committee visits and book speakers for the next month,” said Avery.

A new interest the 80-year-old has developed is as Secretary of the Resident Council at East Glen Center. She visits newcomers to the nursing home, giving them a welcome bag along with discussing life at the center.

An avid student of history, she also makes her own marks on history. Avery seized the opportunity to march with Dr. Martin Luther King for the right to vote. She served as Director of African American Restoration to restore houses of former New Orleans jazz musicians, and served on the committee that highlighted jazz music. She has met many famous musicians, and as a preservationist, has traveled throughout the world, including to China and South Africa.

“The most memorable event in my life was walking in Nelson Mandela’s prison cell in South Africa. I felt his spirit and saw his wall carvings, knowing he served 27 years inside those walls. Another memorable moment was when I visited a church in Savannah, Georgia, that was secretly built by slaves. There were holes in the floor for slaves to be able to breathe while they hid from their masters who were searching for them,” said Avery.

Her grandson Caden is the apple of her eye. Interacting with him gives her a learning experience with the younger generation. “My family means the world to me, including Crescent the dog and Winnie the guinea pig,” said Avery.

“Ms. Avery never lets her physical impairments manipulate her day or her feelings. She is a spice of life,” said Kay Freeman, CTRS, Director of Guest Services at East Glen Center.

“My mottos is, ’Love God, Love Yourself, Love Others,’” said Avery.

Editor’s note: This is the fourth story in a 10-part series about the finalists for the 2018 Ms. Alabama Nursing Home Pageant. On July 20, we’ll post a story about Ms. Gadsden Health & Rehab Center Pauline Ashworth.

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

The Ms. Alabama Nursing Home Pageant is July 30. Click here for more information.