Meet Mildred Williams: Director of Housing

Meet Mildred Williams: Director of Housing

A chance meeting at Spring Lake is how Mildred Williams first learned about SAY. Mildred had recently moved from the East Coast and was enjoying a sunny walk when she struck up a conversation with a friendly couple. After learning about her interests, they recommended she look into SAY. Mildred nodded and didn’t think much about it, until a month later when she began a casual job search. The first position to catch her eye was a listing for the Director of Housing position at SAY. Soon after, Mildred was hired and ready to take the lead.

This isn’t the first time that an observant stranger has helped Mildred find her path. As a teenager, Mildred loved working with numbers and decided that her dream job would be in accounting. She studied finance, became a CPA, and began work as an accountant for Giants Stadium in New Jersey. One day, a coworker asked her directly, “why are you here? This is not your calling.”

Mildred was stunned. This person didn’t know anything about her, and yet, it was true that she did not love her job. Six months later, she accepted this same coworker’s invitation to meet a local pastor who was starting a youth mentor program. The pastor asked Mildred if she would become a mentor and, intrigued by this new role, she agreed.

“I tried it, and I loved it,” says Mildred. “I went back to school for social work, and ever since that day I’ve been doing this. It just elevated from being a youth mentor at a little church to becoming a director for different organizations.”

Her 20-year career in the field encompasses a wide swath of social services, including: housing, in-patient treatment, substance abuse detox, and mental health. In that time, Mildred has been a source of strength and compassion for hundreds of individuals going through challenging times. She knows just how important it is to be there for people when they need it most.

“For a person who has been hurting or suffering from mental illness, and probably ignoring it for years, to see a frown turn into a smile for even just one day, it matters. That’s growth,” says Mildred. “And it starts with where they live. Your home is your silence, it is where you should be able to lay down and breathe, and think, ‘okay, what do I do for tomorrow.’”

Mildred finds her own connection to silence through yoga and meditation. But what really elevates her mood is laughter: “I’m a practical joker. I really love laughter; it fills me up. When it all gets to be so much, I will take a minute to go sit in my car and I’ll listen to Kevin Hart say something extremely funny and it gives me that balance. So then I can handle the rest of my day.”

This joyful approach to all aspects of her life shines through, whether she is talking about the youth in our programs or the young people in her life. Mildred is mother to two adult children and grandmother to two, with one more grandchild on the way.

When asked what her hopes are for the future of SAY’s Housing Program, Mildred doesn’t hesitate.

“I want this to be revolving door of success,” she says. “I want individuals who, when they reach their peak of independence and they leave here, are able to tell that next person, ‘Hey, go to SAY. They will respect you, they will help you, and they will take you from where you are now to where you want to be tomorrow.’”