Lurenda Avery, a resident of Shelby County, Alabama, is used to seeing mountains in her backyard. But nothing could have prepared her for the uphill battle she faced in her household.
In May of 2006, Lurenda and her husband, Ben, were preparing for their first child, Olivia. Things were going well until 24 weeks into her pregnancy when she unexpectedly gave birth. Although little Olivia fought to stay alive for a week, she ultimately didn’t make it.
“They call the first 72 hours after birth the ‘honeymoon’ phase, because if the baby is going to do well, that’s when they’ll do well. And Olivia did at first, but then she started to go downhill,” said Lurenda. “After seven days, we had to say goodbye for now. That was the worst day of my life.”
Anchored by unimaginable grief, the Averys struggled to find a path forward. They needed an outlet for their pain and anger. They needed a helping hand. They needed hope. They found it through The Amelia Center, a facility dedicated to supporting grieving children, families and parents.
“After Olivia passed away, my mom got a call from a friend, who suggested we visit The Amelia Center,” said Lurenda. “So, we made that first appointment. I distinctly remember walking into the center for the first time and feeling complete peace. You can just feel the support."
Partially funded by United Way of Central Alabama, the grief-counseling center helped the Averys work through their pain in a supportive environment. Through ongoing therapy sessions, where they engaged in activities like making a “memory stone” in honor of Olivia, Lurenda and Ben found peace for the first time in a long time.
“United Way helps countless organizations, and you just never know who they have touched,” said Lurenda. “Throughout this journey with United Way, that’s what I’ve been trying to explain to people. You never know how United Way helps people in their darkest moments.”