By Kev Moyè
Lorie Williams is passionate about being a source of hope for the downtrodden.
Growing up in an environment where funds were limited, she knows what it’s like to lack various necessities. Throughout her youth, Williams’ family received food stamps and was part of the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). Without those government resources, her family would’ve struggled mightily.
And that’s the reason why Williams can empathize with a person who’s experiencing similar hardships.
“What the individual’s ethnicity is, it doesn’t matter to Lorie. She always wants to help anybody who’s struggling,” said longtime friend, Lucille Rose. “Christian, non-Christian, friend or foe, she tries to help a person if there’s an obvious need.”
LORIE’S WORK ETHIC
Williams is a modest country girl enjoying life and striving to help others attain happiness.
A native of Marvell, Williams refers to her area of the small Phillips County community as: the rural part of town.
She along with her three brothers, were raised on a farm by their mother and grandfather. Their land was filled with countless rows of cotton. On a small strip of the field, okra was grown. Hogs, cows, and chickens were typically responsible for any unique sounds which came from the isolated farm.
As for the family’s home, it was nestled in the middle of their farmland.
The house had three bedrooms. Williams shared a room with her mother. One of the bedrooms, in which her brothers slept, was also part of the living room. Grandad was the only person to have his own living space.
During this stage of her life Williams was introduced to manual labor. Doing her part to help with the farm, she often completed physically arduous duties.
“In hindsight that lifestyle, it was good for me. But I’d never want to go back and live like that again,” she admitted. “It was hard work. It was truly a lot of work.”
Williams often watched her mother, who worked a regular job during the morning, return to the farm in the evening to complete obligations in the field. Once she became old enough to handle the field work, Williams was assigned similar duties as her mom.
“There were many days when we came home from school, in which we had to pick the cotton. In the summer we had to chop the cotton. We usually got up at 6 o’clock in the morning,” she said. “When it was time to eat lunch, you’d sit out in the field and eat your sandwich out there. When you were done eating … you got up and went back to work.”
“It was a part of our daily lifestyle,” Williams explained. “During that period of my life, I learned that you have to work for what you want. Nothing is given to you.”
Those humble beginnings – which involved various forms of government assistance – remain a motivating presence for Williams.
IT ALL PAYS OFF
A devoted wife, mother, church leader, and Department of Human Services (DHS) staff member for over three decades, Williams’ humility blossomed during her youth in the Arkansas Delta.
“I never forget my past. I just thank God for it,” she said. “Our family, we didn’t have health insurance, dental insurance, or options like that when we were growing up.”
However, she now has several life-enhancement options to choose from.
Much of her ascension embodies why DHS is such a vital agency.
A Division of County Operations (DCO) Assistant Director for the Office of Community Services – Williams commenced her tenure with the state in 1984 at the Phillips County office.
“Lorie was a very good worker who had compassion for our citizens and did everything she could to ensure timely and accurate services,” said Phillips County Program Eligibility Coordinator, Mary Simpson. “During that time of her career, Lorie received an award for Food Stamp accuracy. She was once ranked fourth in the state with number of cases reviewed with no errors made.”
Williams would later assume caseworker duties at the Pulaski South office in 1986 and eventually the Faulkner County office in 1987. She ultimately transferred to the Central Office in 1988 and was assigned the role of Food Stamp, Medicaid, and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) policy writer. Williams later became a program administrator. In that role she was responsible for directing the daily functions of the Medicaid, TANF, and Refugee policy units. Williams has formerly supervised the Medical Review Team.
“I enjoy providing the services,” she explained. “This is all about helping people.”
WANTING TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE
The task of providing aid hits close to home for the University of Central Arkansas alumna.
Several factors have led to Williams’ enhanced standard of living. But perhaps none are more important than her drive to be successful.
“Lorie was always a conscientious worker and Phillips County hated to lose her,” Simpson said. “But she was destined for higher things. She was always a very ambitious person.”
A current DCO manager of 23 employees, each of whom she greatly appreciates, there’s one thing Williams is always cognizant of.
“People really need the services we provide as an agency. That’s why I have such a passion for this work,” she said. “I’ve experienced the same difficulties as many of the people we help. When I was growing up, we got food stamps. And we got excited when the time occurred to get food stamps because that meant we could actually get a little extra food to eat.”
Williams doesn’t hesitate to correct misinformed individuals about who DHS serves and how it provides a particular service.
“When I hear people negatively talking about folks who are getting assistance, I just tell them it is income based,” she stated. “I make sure they know the assistance offered by DHS is on a need basis. … It’s not just a handout.”
Outside of DHS, Williams continues her work for the community. The wife of a preacher, she is mission president at Rock of Ages Missionary Baptist Church in North Little Rock.
“We do a lot of work through the women’s mission group,” she explained. “We have a food pantry. We collect items for different relief shelters, distribute items of need to the homeless, and serve meals at a homeless shelter once a month.”
Williams is dedicated to helping people gain happiness and optimism about what lies ahead.
“Lorie is the nicest person I know,” Rose stated. “She’s always so kindhearted; always willing to give an individual a chance or help. She’s devoted to making a difference in someone’s life.”
(It is for all of these reasons that Lorie Williams was nominated and featured for the Living the Mission series at DHS, which focuses on individuals who go above and beyond their typical functions. If you know someone who lives the mission of DHS and should be featured for the Living the Mission series, contact Kev Moyè at firstname.lastname@example.org.)