“Everybody can be great . . . because anybody can serve. You don't have to have a college degree to serve. You don't have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.” ― Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
ASHEVILLE -- Every community has its heroes, and Asheville and Buncombe County can count on Je’Wana Grier-McEachin and Kathey Avery as two of their most selfless and dedicated. These women comprise half of the staff of Asheville Buncombe Institute of Parity Achievement ( ABIPA) which promotes economic, social and health parity achievement for African Americans and other people of color in Buncombe County through advocacy, education, research and community partnerships. and Kathey is the Nurse Case Manager and Lead Educator.
ABIPA Executive Director JeWana Grier-McEachin serves on many community boards, where cultivates personal relationships to sustain ABIPA’s work. Avery, who was an oncology nurse for 20 years, engages in what she calls “door to door nursing.” Her diverse practice might mean leading a food-tasting demonstration at one of ABIPA’s food pop-up markets in the afternoon and checking in on a diabetic patient later in the day.
“We may be small, but we have an impact.”
With a comparatively small operating budget for a non-profit, ABIPA managed to serve 6,589 individuals in 2018 through a variety of education, outreach, and screening events.
“You have to realize that Asheville’s African American population is smaller compared to other cities its size, so our needs can be overlooked or ignored by other agencies,” ABIPA's Nurse Case Manager and lead educator Kathey Avery points out. “ABIPA works hard to compensate for that.”
“I was always taking up for my classmates when they got in trouble.”
Grier-McEachin recalls that her teachers told her she ought to put all her talk to good use and become a lawyer when she grew up. “They were on to something,” she laughs." Except I chose to stand up for my community through service!”
She sits on several boards in the Asheville community, co-hosts a weekly show (with Avery) called “Body and Soul” on WRES 100.7 FM, and is Secretary of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Association of Asheville and Buncombe County (among many other pursuits). This is how she puts it: “I know that I stretch myself thin, but I have a heart’s desire to see the people in my community have the ability to live, work, play, and pray in their own way.”
“My door is always open.”
Avery is someone who sees a need and does something about it. Living her motto of “find it, fix it,” she is a familiar and beloved person in her community. She has had many successes along the way, but she mentioned one individual in particular: Angelique. When Avery first met Angelique, the young woman was struggling to find her way in nursing. Avery showed her a way out of her minimum-wage CNA nursing position, helped her budget her money and her time, and mentored her as she studied for classes and tests. Today, Angelique is an LPN with several years of nursing under her belt and a whole new attitude.
As America ushers in Black History Month, which exists in part to acknowledge and celebrate African American heroes in the past, we can look right in our own communities for present-day heroes. Visit the AARP Black Community for n ews and information relevant to the African American community on topics including financial security, health and wellness.
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