CITIZEN OF THE MONTH – SELECTED BY MAYOR PRO TEM BILLY MARTIN:
Mayor Pro Tem Martin advised that it was his honor and privilege to present Paula Swepson Avery as Citizen of the Month for October 2018.
Mayor Pro Tem Martin reported that Ms. Avery Paula is part of a long line of rural activists and a 3rd generation resident of Marion, who cares deeply for her community. Ms. Avery and her four sisters were raised by a very strong and loving mother after her father passed away at the young age of 36. She has four children, two girls and two boys, and eighteen grandchildren. Ms. Avery loves life, spending time with family and friends, making people smile, making a difference in her community and attending Mt. Zion AME Zion Church. Ms. Avery states that she tries to live her life by the words in a gospel song that says “If I can help somebody along the way then my living will not be in vain.”
Mayor Pro Tem Martin stated that Ms. Avery has over 25 years of experience in the manufacturing sector and community development. She is the most recent recipient of the 2017 CoThinkk Leadership Award presented in Asheville by “The Giving Circle”. This award highlights the accomplishments of African-American “change agents”. Ms. Avery currently serves as the Coordinator of the West Marion Community Forum. The Forum is supportive of citizens in the community through collaboration and developing solutions to issues related to healthy eating, active living, affordable childcare, county-wide transportation, affordable housing and youth empowerment. Through Ms. Avery’s leadership, the Forum has accomplished some never before seen positive changes in the West Marion Community. Members of the community have taken ownership in each of the afore-mentioned categories and are diligently working to make the neighborhood better than it has ever been for its people. Daring to dream, community gardening and grant writing are only a few examples of the accomplishments of the Forum.
Mayor Pro Tem Martin said that, at the September 18 City Council Meeting held at the East Marion United Methodist Church, a member of the Marion East Forum shared their vision and dream of a design for a community recreation area. Mayor Pro Tem Martin advised that he was deeply impressed with what they hope to someday accomplish in their neighborhood. He noted that Marion and McDowell County have citizens who are claiming ownership of their respective communities and are willing to invest their dreams, intelligence and time to make it all a reality. This kind of community action is contagious and positive. It elevates most everyone’s outlook on possibilities of raising the quality of life in all our neighborhoods. This type of community activism empowers citizens to seek solutions to local problems without having to depend totally on the Mayor and City Council, County Commissioners or Board of Aldermen.
Mayor Pro Tem Martin reported that he is very proud of how Ms. Avery stepped up to the challenge of fulfilling the mission of the Kate B. Reynolds (KBR) Charitable Trust investments in the West Marion Community. Through Ms. Avery’s example, efforts and leadership, and the hard work and support of other dedicated peoples, forums have organized and are now operating in the Marion East, Latino and Old Fort communities. The vision, dreams and aspirations of the KBR Foundation to in some way better the lives of the people of North Carolina are being realized through what is taking place in our communities. Mayor Pro Tem Martin stated that we should all be proud of the positive changes that are taking place in the City of Marion and McDowell County through the work and dedication of people like Paula Swepson Avery and countless others. Our future shines much brighter when people care about one another and are willing to work to bring about positive change for everybody and not just a few. Ms. Avery is that kind of person. She has also served our City as a kind of Ambassador across the state. Mayor Pro Tem Martin said that he personally experienced this at a meeting he attended back in the spring in Raleigh. He met this person who overheard he was from Marion. She introduced herself and asked him if he knew Ms. Avery and praised her for the work she is doing with the West Marion Forum and how the Forum has become a template for the organization of others like it across the state. That lady turned out to be a high ranking official with the KBR Charitable Trust.
Mayor Little, Council Members, family and friends all shared kind words about Paula Swepson Avery and congratulated her on being selected as Citizen of the Month for October.