A recent Friday, Perry Wellness Center welcomed three special visitors: Frank Berry, Commissioner of the Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities (DBHDD), and members of his staff, Andrew Johnson and Stuart Wilkinson. The Department oversees state services for individuals with mental illness, developmental disabilities, and addictive disease, and contracts with public and private providers throughout the state of
The trio was greeted by Stuart Perry, founder of Perry Wellness; Rhonda Hubbard, a peer and one of the center’s lead guides; and other staff members. The group first visited Rudy’s Happy Patch Market, where Stuart shared the market’s history, including its former use by the Perry Oil Company.
“This market once was a storage site for tires, batteries and other car repair products,” Stuart said. “Now, we welcome people to enjoy our produce, plants and good wishes at this site.”
Stuart and Rhonda led Commissioner Berry and his staff through the market and its maze of greenhouses and arbors. They shared future plans for the other historical structures on the campus, as well as new expansion.
“It is a matter of time before we construct another greenhouse and educational center to accommodate our growing number of peers,” Stuart predicted.
Commissioner Berry praised the degree of involvement peers had in production tasks on campus. He was particularly interested in the structures and pond built on campus with donations from the Americus community.
“To have such community support for your mission is wonderful,” noted Berry. “With what I see, both donations and support for your campus will continue.”
Arriving at the educational center, Berry and his group met many peers and staff, who enthusiastically greeted them. Before enjoying lunch together, Berry said, “I have visited centers throughout Georgia, and I have never visited a facility more alive with wellness and recovery. I applaud you for your efforts and leadership in Georgia.”
During lunch, each representative chose to sit with peers, who shared their personal stories of recovery. Team member Stuart Wilkinson commented, “I am very impressed with the Perry Wellness Center. I commend your leadership and am grateful to all of the peers for such a positive welcome.” He concluded: “I look forward to returning with Commissioner Berry, or coming down in the spring to make selections from your inventory of plants and vegetables.”
After a two-hour tour, Stuart presented Berry, Johnson and Wilkinson with copies of his book, Journey for Life, and a pint of peer-produced okra pickle. In closing remarks, he expressed appreciation for the group’s visit.
“You are all welcome at Perry Wellness Center,” said Stuart. “This has been a great day, and we will build on the comments to make our campus even better.”
Commissioner Berry closed the visit. “Since my selection as Commissioner by Governor Nathan Deal, I have received a blessing in my travels throughout Georgia. But today, I have seen the best of the best. Thank you all,” he said.
Following the group’s departure, Stuart reminded both peers and staff that a visit from the top mental health advocate and authority in Georgia was meaningful. “To greet a professional with his compassion and belief in client recovery and wellness, is great,” he enthused. “Review by outside leadership should make us all unite and work together to make Perry Wellness Center even better!”
Left to right: Stuart Wilkinson, Stuart Perry, Rhonda Hubbard, Commissioner Berry and Andrew Johnson meet in the lobby of Perry Wellness Center to exchange gifts.