Service with Spirit

by Jonathan Everitt

Lakisha Williams ’96 grew up in a family filled with people who served their religious community, and when the time came for her to decide what direction her life would take, the groundwork was already there. Today, she works at Goddard Riverside Community Center, a human service organization in New York City, where she serves as connections coordinator.

But what led Williams there was a combination of lessons learned growing up in a service-focused family in the Bronx and an inspiring experience at Hobart and William Smith.

“When I started at HWS, I thought I wanted to be a psychology major,” Williams says. “Then I took a religious studies class and that was it. I majored in religious studies and minored in sociology. Because of the classes I took I fell in love with religious studies.”

After graduating from William Smith, Williams went directly to Union Theological Seminary in New York. While there, she had a work study placement at an Episcopal church that later merged with Goddard Riverside. She has remained at Goddard to this day because she appreciates its philosophy of service.

“I’m at Goddard because it’s a settlement house,” Williams says. “It’s one of the oldest in the country. The settlement house tradition is that it doesn’t just provide temporary services, but tracks you from cradle to grave.”

Among the people Williams serves are the homeless population throughout Manhattan.

“The need is great,” Williams says. “Right now, we have the biggest population of homeless children New York City has ever seen.”

Helping people living in crisis is a big part of Williams’ daily existence. But there are two occasions each year that stand out as her most fulfilling. One is the holiday season.

“We serve about 3,000 meals on Thanksgiving and Christmas,” Williams says. “More and more, we see families and individuals coming in, not because they’re homeless, but because they don’t know where their next meal is coming from.”

Her other favorite moment of the year is Goddard’s Neighbor to Neighbor Dinner the first weekend in May. It’s an awards ceremony for outstanding volunteers in the community.

“This year we’re giving six awards out, and the people we’re going to honor are amazing,” she says. “One is an eighth grader.”

And those aren’t the only award winners in Goddard’s circle. Williams herself has recently been honored with a couple kudos of her own.

A minister and youth pastor at Antioch Baptist Church in Harlem, Williams received the Faith and Favor Ministries’ Favor Award for her ministry work and was recently named Woman of the Year by the Bronx Leadership Academy II.

In the midst of her busy work life and achievements, Williams still finds time to serve as class correspondent for the William Smith Class of 1996.

“While I was at William Smith, I made some of the most lasting relationships of my life. Being class correspondent helps me stay connected to those people. My very best friends are from Hobart and William Smith. My confidants are from HWS.”

Her time at the Colleges was a vital part of the foundation she has built for a life of service.

“I gained family. I gained sisters. I wouldn’t trade them for anything.”


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