By Maria Jose Subiria
A Riverdale nursing home recently held a beauty pageant for its residents, with the hope that its winner will be eligible to advance to the state competition.
Laura Ileana Estrella, 73, won the title of Miss Riverdale Place, after competing in the pageant Friday at Riverdale Place Care and Rehabilitation Center, 315 Upper Riverdale Road. Now, Estrella is setting her sights on winning the 34th annual Ms. Georgia Nursing Home Pageant May 2 at Stone Mountain Park.
"I am calm about it, but I am hoping it comes already. I would like to know if I'll be able to go," said Estrella. "If possible, I want to win, because when you take part in competitions such as these, you expect to win."
Sandra Terrell, activities director for the Riverdale Place Care and Rehabilitation Center, knew about the Ms. Georgia Nursing Home Pageant before she began working at the facility.
"I've done pageants before in other homes, and this nursing home didn't know about it," said Terrell. "I called the Georgia Health Care Association, and asked them to send me paperwork for the pageant."
Belinda Price, pageant coordinator for the Georgia Health Care Association, said Monday that no other nursing homes in Clayton County had submitted applications for the pageant. Last year there were 42 statewide entries, but there are only 18 entries so far, according to Price.
"The top 21 contestants are the ones that run in the competition," said Price. "The preliminary judges will look at what they are doing at the nursing home, what their outlook on life is, and what they've done for the community, and their life, before they got there."
Though the application hasn't been submitted for Estrella, Terrell is confident that she will do well.
"She presented herself, and answered questions, and she did it with all the confidence and ease," said Terrell.
The ladies competing for the title of Miss Riverdale Place were escorted by members of Riverdale High School's ROTC, and the judges were from the Order of the Eastern Star, Lydia Group 28. The mistress of ceremonies was Evelyn Wynn-Dixon, mayor of Riverdale.
According to Estrella, who was born in Puerto Rico, she has participated in a total of five pageants during her lifetime. She began her pageant career before 1955.
"I was calm during the competition," said Estrella. "I've participated in these types of activities."
Estrella was the first one to perform during the talent competition, in which she recited a poem she wrote.
"I recited a poem, and it was called 'In Victous,'" she said. "It was in English, and it was about someone who doesn't give up for anything."
Terrell said eight residents were chosen to be in the Miss Riverdale Place pageant because they had to be residents who are able to travel and participate in the state pageant. "I accepted, thinking that if I won, I would represent Riverdale Place well," said Estrella. "I was very happy when I received the first prize, and surprised."
Estrella came to Riverdale in 1984. She said she moved to Riverdale Place in 2002 when she began having symptoms of encephalitis.
"I couldn't eat, walk and I couldn't do anything," said Estrella. "With physical therapy, and all other therapies, I began to get better, walking and eating little by little."
During her time at Riverdale Place, Estrella has managed to become president of the residents' council. If a resident has a minor problem, they are directed to her.
"They come to me, and I refer the problem to Sandra, or the social worker," she said.