A resident of the South Side for her entire life, Gloria Williams’s passion is helping the West Englewood community. She moved to the West Englewood area in the early 1970’s, is a proud graduate of Gage Park High School, received her masters degree in urban leadership from Northern Seminary, and she raised her two children and six grandchildren in the neighborhood.
“I’ve been working in the community for many, many years,” Williams told me. “I’ve been addressing some of the issues and concerns of all ages—jobs, property taxes, back to school events—and did quite a few things over there in West Englewood, even employment training.”
In 2000, Williams founded Voices of West Englewood, a nonprofit focused on raising awareness of and offering solutions to issues affecting the West Englewood community. Wiliams noticed that community members often had questions and issues and would come to her, and she wanted this information to be accessible to everyone. “Some people are afraid to speak up,” she said. “But I’m not. I’m going to speak up about what it is they want to see.” She did just that when she wrote about her work for Best of the South Side in 2015.
To this day, Voices of West Englewood is still active and thriving. Williams recently received two grants where she was able to plant flowers and then host a large party with a barbeque, bouncy house, music, and games. The event fostered community and brought joy to the neighborhood, as celebrations are needed now more than ever.
Through all of the complications with the pandemic, Williams has continued to be resilient and advocate. She led a food giveaway that provided meals to community members who had lost their jobs and other families in need. She also realized the benefits of virtual forums and events where she herself could learn more about her community and other organizations doing essential work. Recently, Williams participated in a commercial and was photographed for a billboard where she encouraged seniors to get vaccinated.
With conviction, passion, and grit, Williams is a true force. Her drive and love for her community make it impossible for her to stop serving anytime soon.