Americus Times-Recorder, Americus, Georgia

Local News

April 2, 2012

A proud legacy of Sumter County Builds with Walk of Fame

AMERICUS — On Sunday afternoon, March 25, the proud history and legacy of Sumter County was celebrated with the Walk of Fame at the historic Rylander Theater. On that day, four new honorees were inducted into this distinguished group of past and current citizens of Americus and Sumter County. After welcoming guests to the celebration, Mayor Barry Blount presented the guest speaker for the occasion. With his usual eloquence and historical knowledge, Alan Anderson shared history of the four new inductees. Posthumously honored were Jacob Wilkins Cobb, Sr., and Avery Wheeler (two of Americus' first residents and founders).

Another outstanding native, Rev. M. William (Bill) Howard, could not attend because of his pastoral duties in Newark, New Jersey. These honorees build the Walk Of Fame to 52 recipients.

The fourth honoree, Stuart Perry, was present to hear historical accolades by Anderson. Although Perry was raised in nearby Buena Vista, Americus and Sumter County have long benefited from his dedicated work in mental health. Through Stuart's worldwide mental health advocacy, he has gained numerous awards and this isn't the first time he has received recognition at home.

In 2000, Perry walked every step from Americus to Chicago as an advocate for mental health. Former editor of Americus Times-Recorder Rudy Hayes accompanied Stuart on most of the Walk. He then wrote a book, "Journey for Life," which included Stuart's own battle with mental illness and his amazing pioneer vision to help others. Along with encouragement from family and friends - even former First Lady Rosalynn Carter - Stuart has now regained and maintains a vigorous and productive life. Now, he is delivering hope and a full array of innovative health- promoting activities through The Perry Wellness Center.

During the decade since that historic Walk, Perry has spoken throughout the United States for mental health awareness. In 2007, The Tom Perry PEER Center, on US Highway 280 W, was Medicaid-certified by Georgia, the only one with health and nutritional components. In 2008, volunteer Edward Thomas, aka ET, led "goat travels" throughout Americus and raised almost $3,000. On August 25, 2011, The Georgia Mental Health Consumer Network presented a citation and plaque to Stuart as Mental Health Provider of the Year.

Earlier that year, preparations had already begun to fulfill Stuart's dream of a much larger facility making it possible for his program to expand -- such as the addition of green houses, full gym and "Rudy's (Hayes) Happy Patch Produce Market" made possible largely through the generosity of the extended Perry family. From the beginning of Stuart's efforts, they continue to significantly support the development of the Perry Wellness Center with their leadership and various resources.

Americus Artist Jeff Williams - also a Walk of Fame honoree - spent hundreds of hours as a volunteer making the new Wellness Center a colorful, attractive and fun place for customers, members and staff. He sees the Center as "a new 'supermarket' of information and services designed to provide opportunities for mental health patients to move away from social welfare, drug and alcohol dependency and be transformed into functioning workforce-ready wage earners."

Generous local business man Frank Joiner, owner of Americus Feed and Seed and long-time supporter of Perry Wellness Center, continues a special arrangement for purchase of needed garden supplies and plants for all future hands-on experiences.

By December 2011, the corner at 302 East Furlow was a beehive of activity and officially opened as the new PERRY WELLNESS CENTER. Monday through Friday, 52 Peer Members of the Perry Wellness Center share time discussing issues that have or may have an impact on their lives. Stuart Perry often says, "We are using this first site of Perry Wellness Center in Americus to analyze issues, structure learning patterns and provide information for our peer members that will help them deal with the problems in today's world.

Following the Walk of Fame event on Sunday, Linda Fuller Degelmann, co-founder of Habitat for Humanity International and The Fuller Center for Housing, commented, "Stuart Perry deserves this high honor because of the significant contributions he has made and will continue to make in our community and around the world. His wife Pam and daughter Amanda have worked closely by his side and made difficult personal sacrifices for years. They like to encourage folks to get involved through contributing time, talents and visits to "Rudy's Happy Patch" colorful vegetable and flower market where most of the items are produced and marketed by PWC members. That place really is a beacon in our city and a great place to buy locally grown fruits, vegetables and flowers!"

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