Williams takes pride in his reputation as local volunteer
Published 10:03 am Friday, February 5, 2016
Nathaniel Williams has a reputation in Vicksburg.
“I’m a well-known volunteer,” he said. “My motto is, ‘It would not matter what my bank account is, the type of house I live in, or the kind of car I drive, but the world may be different because I’m a volunteer.’ If somebody asks me to volunteer I’m going to do it. I want to change the community to make it better.”
Williams has his fingers in a number of community service pies, serving on the Riverfest Board of Directors; mentoring youth for Vicksburg Family Development; serving as Vicksburg Junior High PTO president; coach and referee for YMCA youth basketball; and serving as choir director for four local churches.
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He is also a former member of the United Way of West Central Mississippi board, former Red Cross board member, former member of the Make a Promise Coalition, and United Way’s Teen Help program.
Volunteering, he said, is a habit he picked up from his parents, “who did a lot in the community,” and he carried through college and the military.
“I volunteered in high school and college; it’s in my heart,” Williams said. “When I was in the military, I did some volunteer work. I like to help young people and the elderly, and in the military, you see people who really need help and I was there. I volunteered to help. I did some of everything.”
A graduate of Jackson State University, he served 5 1/2 years in the Army and later returned to Vicksburg, where he worked as a substitute teacher before going to work with the Mississippi Department of Employment Security in 1988. “I’ve been there since,” he said.
He also formed a gospel choir, The Mighty Train of Gospel.
“We’ve been singing since 1988, the year I came back, and we’ve still got the choir,” he said. “Mostly, we go to places where the people can’t come to us, like the nursing homes and hospitals.
I love singing; singing is my heart. Music, that’s the main thing in my life — music and volunteering, helping others.”
And Williams takes his love of music beyond his gospel group, serving as choir director at his church, Ebenezer M.B. Church, and for Shiloh Baptist Church, Mercy Seat Baptist Church and Mount Carmel Baptist.
“The first Sunday, I have Mercy Seat and my church, Ebenezer,” he said. “The second Sunday I go to my wife’s church in Port Gibson. The third Sunday at Shiloh, and fourth and fifth Sunday at Mount Carmel. I used to go to 4 or 5 churches every Sunday, but now I’ve stopped and go to 2 or 3.”
Much of Williams’ other volunteer efforts involve working with youth-oriented programs, like Vicksburg Family Development’s mentoring program, where he works with boys in elementary and high school.
“Joseph Johnson asked me to be a mentor, and I’ve been there (at Family Development) since 1994,” he said. “We meet with boys age 10 to 18 we work with them on personal hygiene, learning about life and prepare them for the future. We help them with schoolwork, play sports, we get to do a lot of different things.”
His work with the Vicksburg Junior High School PTO is an extension of his experience when his children attended the school. “All of my kids are grown,” he said.
Williams said non-parent members fit in the organization well, “Because they’ve been through what the parents are going through now, so we can tell what to expect and what not to expect. We have about 15-16 active parents who participate.”
He said he serves in the YMCA basketball program for children 8 through 13 primarily as a referee.
“It’s very easy, because I teach the kids,” he said. “If they make mistake, I give them a second chance, because they’re at the age they’re trying to learn (the game).”
Williams’ work with the Riverfest board involves handling security for the annual art and music festival and handling the “Gospelfest” portion of the two-day event.
Williams credits his wife, Esther, with helping him in his activities.
“I thank God for her, because I know she’ll stand behind me; she just let’s me do it,” he said, adding there are times when she asks him when he’s going to slow down.
Despite his full plate of activities, he said, he is able to have time for himself “because I don’t schedule everything at the same time. Most of my activities are during the day or evenings or weekends.
“I love doing it all,” he said. As long as I’m helping somebody, I’m satisfied, because I know somebody has to do it. A willing, able bodied person should do all they can to make things better for other people.”
And his favorite volunteer experiences involve music.
“I just love music. Anything that comes from my heart and reaches somebody else’s heart, that makes me feel good. Especially when we go to a convalescent home (and) the patients and the residents really get involved. That’s what I like, and I do it in a way that you can’t help but get involved.”