You won’t find any garbage on 13th Avenue in Guin, Ala. You will, however, find a sign warning prospective litterers of a $500 fine and a feisty, 81-year-old lady looking out for possible offenders. This sign was recently put into place by Guin resident and volunteer Merry Jo Rogers.
When Rogers isn’t attending a meeting for one of the four committees she is a part of, she can be found picking up trash around her home on her beloved street. Rogers possesses a special passion for the beautification of her tiny town and wants to be involved in any way she can to make it a better place.
“Since my retirement, I’ve had more time to try and give back to the community,” Rogers said. “There are several things I hope we can continue to implement in Guin that would help our community be a community of excellence.”
Rogers says she wants to aid in any way she can to help her hometown move forward and not simply stand still.
As a member of the Alabama Communities of Excellence committee, Your Town committee, Chamber of Commerce and Marion County High School Alumni Association secretary, Rogers is certainly involved.
Rogers said she hopes to get ordinances passed to address dilapidated buildings and litter within the city limits. As a vital part in creating Clean Up Guin Day, Rogers says cleaning up and beautifying the town continues to be her passion.
As a part of these various committees, Rogers has implemented many plans for the future and accomplished several goals in the areas of economic development, education and city beautification.
While involved with these various committees, Rogers helped establish the Guin Area Chamber of Commerce, city of Guin website, construction of 3.5 miles of sidewalks and landscaping in the downtown area and other community efforts. “We are very lucky to have Merry Jo as a part of our committees,” Mayor Phil Segraves said. “Her hard work is strictly voluntary, too.”
Rogers is no stranger to taking on community projects and revitalizing the condemned. In 1987, Rogers took on the task of converting Guin’s closed hospital building into an assisted living facility.
“This was a tremendous challenge,” Rogers said. “With the help of one maintenance man, we converted this building into a 32-bed assisted living facility.
Rogers was involved in every step of the restoration. She painted walls, stained furniture, made curtains and changed out heating and cooling units.
“There were no grants involved in the restoration of the old hospital,” Rogers said. “I put a lot of my own money into this project.”
Rogers was unaware of assisted living facilities before taking on the project, but felt that it was a great service for those who were incapable of living alone.
After many stumbling blocks and hard labor, Rogers’ facility opened July 1, 1989, and she was named administrator.
“I had over 792 hours of comp time in that year,” Rogers said with a grin. “I realized that I wouldn’t be compensated or get time off for this, so I stopped keeping count.”
Lifetime Guin resident Wilma Palmer recalls, “It was unreal what Merry Jo did to that building. She worked day and night to make that old hospital into a wonderful facility that was a home to many.”
Rogers held the title of administrator for seven years. In 1995, she left the facility she had created and began to work at Hamilton Assisted Living, just 10 miles north in Hamilton, Ala., where she retired in 2008.
Rogers spent most of her life in Guin. She was born and raised in Guin and graduated from Marion County High School in 1949. After graduation, Rogers attended Massey Business College in Birmingham, Ala.
“The medical field was my choice of employment,” Rogers said. “I worked for radiologists, internal medicine doctors, cardiologists and general surgeons over a period of 37 years.”
Rogers returned to Guin in 1987 to look after her mother. After her return to Guin, she was appointed to the Housing Authority Board where she served for many years.
Rogers is currently working on restoring Guin’s old train depot into a city museum and welcome center. She hopes to receive grants to aid in the restoration and to document this on Alabama’s Historical Register.
“Guin has a very interesting history from the railroad to the tornado in ’74,” Rogers said. “I have several ideas for this project already, and I am very excited about it.”
Rogers hopes to continue her work with Guin and envisions even greater things for the future.
Writer Lindsay Miles is a small town girl with big city dreams, and is currently a senior public relations major at Auburn University.