For forty years, since 1980, AmeriCorps Seniors volunteer Earnestine Williams has provided dedicated service to people with developmental disabilities. Now, at age 103 (she was born April 19, 1917) Ms. Williams has never looked back and still devotes 20 hours per week, every Monday through Thursday, as a friend and mentor to people with developmental disabilities.
Earnestine’s consistency and commitment bring continuity and stability to the people she has served and befriended through the Senior Companion program. Over time, she has built and maintained important long-term relationships with her companions. These relationships give her a deep insight into individuals’ unique preferences and tendencies – information that often proves valuable to the professionals who provide direct supports to her clients.
Earnestine assists with dining, encouraging conversation and seeing that they socialize with others. One of her clients likes current events and Earnestine is ready for conversation with her about what is happening in and around Syracuse and the world. She is also happy to help her friends explore their community and get to know their neighbors. When she accompanies people with disabilities on shopping trips or to local restaurants, parks or other establishments, she encourages their interaction and makes everyone comfortable.
Earnestine, a former employee of Syroco, a manufacturer of chairs and wall décor, mothered 11 children with her husband, George and her children, most of whom are “seniors” themselves, share her passion for teaching, sharing and service to others. Her son George served 16 years as a Senior Companion before his death in 2017; her daughter-in-law Mary is currently in her 15th year of service; daughter Georgie, a Senior Companion for 17 years; and daughter Erma has served as a Senior Companion for 10 years. Last year, at her birthday party, her advice” was: be kind to others; give, don’t take; and most importantly, keep doing something.