HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) — It’s hard to separate Mary Elizabeth Marr and Thrive Alabama. The two are intertwined, sharing a passion for healthcare, for everyone in North Alabama.
Marsha Seymour, one of Mary Elizabeth’s colleagues, nominated her for Remarkable Women to spotlight the outstanding work she does with Thrive Alabama.
“She built this whole not-for-profit around that one idea of let’s help each other, let’s change the world,” Seymour said.
Mary Elizabeth found her calling and that led her to the AIDS Action Coalition. Her passion for helping the HIV/AIDS community took her all the way to The White House.
“Once I started getting involved with HIV, I realized that it was a passion and I needed to do whatever I could to help people,” Mary Elizabeth told News 19’s Chief Meteorologist Danielle Dozier.
She visited the nation’s capitol during the beginning stages of a new medication PrEP, short for Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis. PrEP is a medication that people can take if they are at risk for HIV, and is supposed to prevent the person from getting HIV.
Mary Elizabeth explained that at that time, this medication was not being distributed across the nation and compared it to when women were offered birth control in the 1960s. “It was such a taboo… We made it available and it changed society. If we could just provide PrEP across the board to anybody and everybody that need it, we could change the trajectory of HIV,” she said.
Under Mary Elizabeth’s leadership, the AIDS Action Coalition evolved into Thrive Alabama, providing healthcare for everyone across the area.
“When you come to Thrive, you do not know what someone else is there for, and that really helped us to reduce stigma,” Mary Elizabeth explained.
Obviously, Mary Elizabeth can’t do it alone and when asked what keeps her going, “My staff inspires me. They work so hard. The other people that inspire me are our clients. Our clients are so special to us.”
Thrive Alabama also has something exciting in the works that will help them further provide services to those who need them. Thrive is set to break ground on a 72,000-square-foot health center, “And once we break ground, it’ll only be about 14 to 18 months until it’s built.”
Mary Elizabeth says she finds strength through the people she serves, “When you’re exhausted, you’re tired and you think nobody cares, and then I’ll get a phone call, or I’ll get a check in the mail and or I’ll get a thank you note from someone. It just says, OK, I can do this. I can move, I can go a little bit further.”
When asked what advice she would give to her younger self, she says to slow down, and it takes time for things to blossom, “I think sometimes in my younger life, I tried to hurry things.”
And we think that is something everyone can relate to. People crave instant gratification, and sometimes it is easy to forget that things take time.
News 19’s Remarkable Women campaign has allowed us to meet some many incredible women from across the Tennessee Valley. You can read our previous honoree’s stories here.