Jefferson Award Winner Founded The Village ProjectBy Sharon Chin

SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) For the past ten years, a Bay Area woman has put the phrase “it takes a village” into action. Today, her Village Project not only helps feed and educate some of San Francisco’s neediest children, it now has a program to help adults too.

Ten years ago, Adrian Williams was living in Oakland working at a high-paying sales job.

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“I used to be a little black, what’s her name? Imelda Marcos. I used to love shoes and now I wear sneaks,” she remembered. But, she said, “I’ve always felt a need to give back.”

Then on a visit to San Francisco, she had an epiphany.

“I realized the kids over here were murdering each other and I couldn’t understand that. And then the babies were on lockdown because there was so much violence.”

In her free time, she started a lunch program for the young people in the city’s Western Addition. Then she added a summer camp. Then she took a leave of absence from her job.

“My boss said ok, he gave me copiers and the whole thing to set up and I was supposed to go back,” she explained. “I never went back. He held my work station for two years… I got hooked!”

That’s how the Village Project began. Williams moved from Oakland to live in the Western Addition. A decade later, she’s still focused on feeding and tutoring about 20 children during the school year, and dozens more in the summer.

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She’s also added kwanzaa and mardi gras celebrations to reach more of the community.

For ten years, Lekesha Howard has learned from Williams.

“She’s like a mother to me,” Howard said. “(She taught me) to be passionate about what you want to give to the community and go for your dreams and you can do whatever you put your mind to.”

Williams is seen as key to keeping African-American culture alive in San Francisco.

“Miss Adrian is insistent and persistent that we will have a stake in this town,” said Liz Jackson-Simpson. “We have contributed so much to this community, that we need to be recognized is so honorable.”

And don’t believe for a minute that she is slowing down.

“I go to bed thinking about what am I going to do in the morning,” Williams said. “Somebody just sent me something that said, “The devil said oh lord, she’s awake.'”

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So for united a community with her Village Project, this week’s Jefferson Award in the Bay Area goes to Adrian Williams.