While reminiscing recently about meal preparation in the early days of Perry Wellness Center, discussion turned to other memories of the program, which is now a decade old. After previous efforts in establishing area peer services through the Tom Perry Peer Center, Stuart Perry what has become the current version – a wellness and recovery center.
Known as the Ton Perry Wellness Center, the program began in a small building on Highway 280 West in Americus, with only five peers in attendance and only Perry family members as staff. It was definitely a family affair. Amanda recalls,
Amanda Perry, daughter of Stuart and Pam Perry, recalls, “Aunt Joy Nelson would help on Fridays. She would do the financial and pay bills. Even then, bill payment was important.” Although Stuart’s wife, Pam Perry, did not join her family until 2009, she was actively involved in encouragement and planning. Before joining the family team, Pam was a high school math teacher.
Amanda remembers those days fondly. “Those were learning days,” she notes. “We were in this new program together. I was young and remember coming home from college and visiting with all of the peers. We were all so close.”
Speaking of Annie Ruth Thomas, the program’s initial cook, Amanda says, “Miss Annie is like another mother figure to me. I remember growing up with these peers. They are my family. I cherish those days as we have grown together.”
Several of the original peers remain on the campus of Perry Wellness Center today. Edward Thomas, or “E.T.,” was the first peer to attend. He happily recalls those times, saying, “Back then there were only four at Tom Perry Wellness. We all had specific jobs to make it work. I was a lead man then with Stuart, Tony, and Thomas. We would work together, along with Uncle Bill (Perry) to plan our garden. I would do the planting, and we all planted our vegetables. The center has really grown, but the planning we started with back then continues today. It is much larger, but Stuart and his family have done a great job.”
From quite humble roots, the program has grown and flourished. Today, an average of 67 peers from seven southwest Georgia counties attend the recovery program, and a staff of 29 serves the program.
Along with her family, Amanda has welcomed the growth of the program. “I love our expansion to a larger center and more peers,” she explains. “I thank God for all He has blessed us with in this growth of a larger peer family and more services for them.” We imagine that there are many blessings yet to come!