Q&A with Felicia Ayers Storey of Presbyterian Home for Children

Felicia Ayers Storey
Felicia Ayers Storey
Vice President of Program Operations and Services
Presbyterian Home for Children
Congratulations! You received the distinguished recognition this summer as one of central Alabama’s Top 50 Over 50 by Positive Maturity. As you reflect on this and other recent accolades, to what do you attribute your success?
I was blessed to have a family who set standards, beliefs, and expectations for its members, which included a strong spiritual foundation and a good education. This, followed by good career choices, afforded me the opportunity to be independent and self-sufficient. In addition, I had great teachers and leaders who recognized my potential and challenged me. I always perform well for those who believe in me and want me to do well in life.
You have spent nearly 40 years at the Presbyterian Home for Children. Tell us briefly about your experience and what has inspired you to stay resilient and connected to the to the agency for your entire career.
Initially, I did not believe that I would be with the Presbyterian Home for Children for a long period of time. Being a native of Tuscaloosa, I had never heard of the Talladega ministry or its works. I thought my career path would be in Medical Social Work at UAB Hospital in Birmingham as I had interned there as a medical social worker prior to obtaining my bachelor’s degree in social work. At the time of graduation, there were no job openings in the department, so I applied for an opening in the social services department at the Presbyterian Home and immediately began to enjoy the work. I literally lived and breathed this ministry. At the time of my hire, I was required to live on campus and be assessable to the needs of the program, youth, and staff 24 hours a day. Hence, I knew the program inside and out and had a realistic view of cottage life for the children and the workers. I worked every job except maintenance, so I felt that I understood the Presbyterian Home more than most. Because I was able to advance within the agency, I avoided stagnancy and complacency. I felt the Presbyterian Home was one of the best childcare facilities for children and as we expanded our programs and services, I was drawn into being a part of the leadership which helped the agency evolve to higher levels of excellence and accomplishment.

You have been a strong leader throughout the state of Alabama and are certainly a mentor to many in your profession. Who was your mentor and how did that person support your growth?
My mother, Dorothy Ayers Martin, has been my mentor since I was aware of the meaning. My mom lost her husband, James Ayers (my father), when I was only five months old, leaving her a very young widow with a baby girl to raise alone. My mother worked domestic jobs to not only provide for us, but to also pay the balance left owed on expenses not covered by her scholarship as she studied at Stillman College in the mid 1960’s. Little did I know then, the significance that Stillman College and Brown Memorial Presbyterian Church would mean in relation to my work with the Presbyterian Home.

Upon graduation, my mother took a teaching position in Bibb County, at West Blocton High School, where she was the first African American faculty member. It took great courage for my mother to integrate the school in the late 60’s, when social unrest and racial inequality was so great. My mother weathered the storm and became one of the most beloved teachers in the system, so much so that she worked her entire career in that school system at West Blocton High School and the Bibb County Area Vocational School, retiring after 33 1/3 years. I only need to look at my mother’s career to understand why I too have been with the Home for now, starting my 37th year. When God gives you roots where you can flourish, you become empowered to help others achieve the desires of their hearts.

With heightened awareness and attention to diversity, how have you advocated as a leader for all voices to be heard and recognized?
Being a Black/ African American female in Alabama, I have always been aware of the need for diversity as I have often been the only person of color in a room. I have known the importance of being in that room to help others understand that there is nothing to fear from people who don’t look the same. It is important to be in that room to help others know that having a diverse group of people with varying experiences and socioeconomic background is enriching. As a leader, I recognize that everyone has something to contribute and I lead by example demonstrating that you are of value, you have a voice, and your opinions matter. I welcome the input of a team where each person is given the opportunity to contribute to projects and matters of consideration. I truly believe that Teamwork makes the Dreamwork!

QUESTION FOR Doug Marshall: Doug, we know you are a champion of Felicia Storey and her contributions to Presbyterian Home for Children, is there anything else you’d like to share about Felicia that she might be too humble to express?
The Presbyterian Home for Children is a ministry to at-risk and homeless children and families, but it’s also a large nonprofit organization. What makes Felicia so extraordinary is that anyone who spends any time with her can tell she is a woman of God dedicated to serving others in crisis. At the same time, she is a capable and proven administrator who has helped the Home accomplish amazing things, including being accredited by EAGLE where the real winner are the individuals we served. I am thankful every day that she has this special combination of giftings.

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