By Michaela Gibson Morris
TUPELO – In song and words, the Regional Rehabilitation Center family came out to celebrate its longtime leader on Tuesday.
More than 300 filled the Summit Center in appreciation for the 27 years Kay Mathews had served Regional Rehab. After more than a decade as executive director, she retired earlier this month.
“Kay is leaving a legacy that will be unmatched,” said David Cole, retired president of Itawamba Community College, which has hosted an annual bluegrass concert for 20 years to benefit the center.
Mathews, who continued to provide speech therapy even as she took on administrative roles, maintained the center’s legacy of providing physical, occupational and speech therapy services without charge by raising more than $1 million each year from government allocations, grants and donations.
“We figured out that Regional Rehab under Kay’s leadership had touched the lives of more than 100,000 people,” said Alan Bank, chairman emeritus.
Musician Paul Thorn talked about his struggles with undiagnosed dyslexia, and how Kay and the center had helped his daughter overcome the learning disability and make the honor roll.
“I love you, Kay,” said Thorn, one of several presenters who choked back emotion during the evening.
When it was her turn, Mathews thanked the center’s founders who showed her the way, the board of directors who inspired her, the family that supported her, the staff who loved their work, the clients who trusted and the community who gave to support the center.
“It’s not about me,” said Mathews, who joked about how friends teased her over all the pictures in the newspaper. “It was always about securing the future of the rehab center.”
Mathews’ legacy will continue at the center. Starting later this year, the Kay Mathews Hope at Work award will recognize an outstanding volunteer.