Sabrina Williams, 44, grew up in a two-parent household in the North Lawndale neighborhood she now resides. It’s also where she and raised her four children.
Being of service to others within her community was something instilled in her and her seven other older siblings as a way of life. Now the literacy volunteer and community activist is being recognized as a Dollar General national “Every Day Hero.”
“My parents were humanitarians,” Williams said recalling her childhood. “We used to wake up in the morning with someone new at the table all the time.” “My dad…was from the South and he couldn’t read or write but his rule for us was to learn to read and write and use common sense.
Williams said that all of her siblings went to college with the help of her parents but by the time she was ready for college, her parents were not able to help her financially.
“I had to make it through college on my own because they didn’t have it like that anymore,” she said. “I haven’t finished yet but I am a year away from getting my degree in elementary education.
Being named a Dollar General national “Every Day Hero,” was due to a nomination by an after- school organization called, America SCORES, a program developed in 1994 in Washington D.C. by Julie Kennedy, a public school teacher concerned that her students, lacked constructive after-school options and were at risk of gang activity and other dangers after class.
The after-school literacy program today, serves more than 7,500 youth each year, in over 140 public schools in fifteen cities nationwide.
“All of my kids participated in America SCORES, but it started with my daughter Shakena Williams who was very shy but loved to read and write and the program helped bring her out of her shell which made me look at it a bit closer and I became more involved. This program helped keep my kids stay in school and active.”
Even after her children went on to high school, Williams continued to volunteer with America SCORES as a writing coach.
With both her parents and her husband now deceased, Williams said she has lost so much but still feels good about sharing her time with a child who can use the attention.
“I was blessed to be able to push through,” Williams said. “I’m happy to be nominated but it’s something I love to do. It puts life back into the community because you’re helping a younger person to grow up and put something back into the community.”
Williams who’s not afraid to speak out in her North Lawndale community said she once stopped a gang fight from escalating by speaking with both sides.
There was no place she wouldn’t go to reach out to a parent and/or a child.
“I would go into the Ogden housing projects to get kids who didn’t show up for school,” Williams said. “Whatever was missing in the community, I would figure out how to get it done. I helped all of the kids because if my child is succeeding, it’s no good if the next child is not and I see this every day.”
Williams who is actively involved in her church, as well as a community women’s shelter, was selected as Dollar General’s national “Every Day Hero” for the month of February.
Celebrating diversity in the communities it serves, Dollar General will feature Williams in a national campaign, including a spotlight throughout February within TNT’s “Dramatic Difference” program and in an advertorial in People magazine on newsstands next week.
In honor of Sabrina Williams and literacy volunteers everywhere, Dollar General is making a $10,000 donation to America SCORES Chicago to help the organization fulfill its mission of inspiring urban youth to lead healthy lives, to be engaged students and to have the confidence and character to make a difference in the world.
On Thursday Feb 21, Williams will attend America SCORES’ Red Carpet Poetry SLAM at the School of the Art Institute Ballroom, 112 S. Michigan Ave., from 5:30 -8:30 pm.
By Deborah Bayliss