Wednesday, February 13, 2013
At the restless age of 19, Adrenace "Shae" Williams enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps, beginning a journey of service that led her across the country until family and career brought her back to serve the community where she grew up.
Born and reared in Jackson, Williams' travels began with boot camp on Paris Island, S.C., followed by two years as a communication-center operator and computer technician at Camp Pendleton, Calif. Williams left the Marine Corps in 1995 and returned to Mississippi for a short stint at Jackson State University. Several semesters later, she transferred to Oklahoma University. That year, while on a school break, she met her future husband, fellow Jackson native Fredreca Williams.
"Fredreca was in the Navy at the time, so I went right back into military life," the 38-year-old says with a bemused smile. "I gave birth to our first son, Jairen, while stationed in Hawaii."
Two more children (daughters Jenesis and Jeniah) and multiple moves later, the Williamses returned to Jackson in 2009, when she was pregnant with their fourth child.
"We came to Jackson for a baby shower because I'd never had a shower with my family--I'd always been away--(and) I was persuaded to stay," she says, laughing.
"My mother in-law, whom I dearly love, told me she didn't want me traveling when I was so close to having the baby. So we stayed."
With newborn son Jaxcen in tow, the family moved to south Jackson and enrolled their school-aged kids in Jackson Academy.
In July 2011, Williams began working for Mississippi Faith-Based Coalition for Community Renewal at New Horizon Church on Ellis Street. The Coalition"s primary mission is to provide counseling on home, health and auto insurance to low- and moderate-income families in Jackson and across the state. With services from financial literacy and foreclosure-prevention counseling to volunteer income-tax preparation, the organization is vital to some Mississippi families and neighborhoods.
"I started out as a volunteer," Williams says. "(New Horizon) Bishop (Rev. Ronnie Crudup) wanted to utilize my talents in the best way possible, so I worked on the website."
Her skill set and devotion to the coalition's mission led Williams to take over as executive director last year. She says she has touched more than 500 people by helping them qualify for mortgages or save their home from foreclosure.
"I've always been a servant," she says. "All the places I've been, the knowledge and skills I've gathered, when I came back, I knew what my job was."
In addition to her work at the coalition, Williams participates in the Leadership Jackson program. She likes seeing and being a part of Jackson's evolution.
"I'm happy to see the diversity of people here," she says. "Jackson is becoming its own little melting pot."