Daily News Journal,
SMYRNA Ginny Williams recalls the days when her hometown had a problem with homelessness.
It was the early 1980s, and the Nissan plant was under construction. People gathered their belongings and moved to Smyrna in hopes of finding a job, but not all of them were successful.
At the time, Williams was running her family’s grocery store, Gil’s IGA, and it seemed not a day passed when people stopped in to ask for help.
“People would come in and ask for food. There was a lot of homelessness,” she said.
“I saw we had a problem and needed to fix it,” said Williams.
That marked the start of the Smyrna/ La Vergne Food Bank, which she helped get off the ground with community volunteers Patsy and Hiram Wright and Carolyn Peebles.
For those efforts and many more, Williams has been selected as the winner of the Governor’s Volunteer Award. The award is given to one adult and one child from each of Tennessee’s 95 counties.
She was recognized by Mayor Ernest Burgess at Thursday’s meeting of the Smyrna Rotary Club.
For the second year in a row, Rockvale’s Leanna Edwards was recognized as the local youth winner.
Edwards has spent hundreds of hours working with veterans at the York VA Medical Center, the Elders First program for senior citizens and the annual rodeo put on by local school resource officers.
In 2014, she was recognized by state Sen. Bill Ketron for logging more than 500 hours of community service in a two-year span.
Williams’ contributions to the community include a list of nearly two dozen organizations, such as the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, Recycle Rutherford, Tennessee Federation of Republican Women, Jaycees and Jaycettes.
In 1989, she succeeded Kenneth “Coon” Victory as the town’s commissioner of parks and recreation, becoming the first woman elected to office in Smyrna.
Even after being honored by Burgess, Williams called on fellow club members to purchase tickets to the local American Red Cross’ upcoming fundraiser.
Burgess said people such as Williams make Rutherford County a great place to live.
“Every organization you’ve been a part of has been blessed by your leadership. You’ve helped make Smyrna what it is,” the county mayor told her.
Dr. LeAnne Duffey, current Rotary President said when she joined the club 10 years ago, Williams was her role model.
“When I became a Rotarian, I looked up to you. I wanted to walk in your shoes,” Duffey, a local veterinarian, said.
Service to others, Williams said, has nothing to do with wanting to be recognized.
“You just can’t beat helping another person and making a difference in their life,” she said.
Contact Mealand Ragland-Hudgins at 615-278-5189 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @dnj_mrhudgins.