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because they’re making the community what it is.

“A Citizen of the Year is really just an ordinary person doing extraordinary things in their community,” she summarized.

Williams connected the importance of the Citizen of the Year with the importance of community. “What is community?” she asked the audience. “Is it just a geographical area? Is it defined by city or state policies? Is it a number of people? What really defines community? To understand that you have to understand the value of people within the community because that is where community starts.”

She reminisced on when she first moved to Lyons in elementary school. She explained that upon first learning she was moving, she protested the situation to her parents, as most children do. She said that she was happy with her life in Lawrenceville, where she spent her days in an air-conditioned school and taking biweekly trips to the mall.

“We moved during spring break, and one day, my dad told us all to load into the car and ride around town so he could show us our new home town,” she recalled. “I thought the place was very beautiful, but I said, ‘But, where’s the Burger King, Dad?’ He told me there wasn’t one but there was a Weenie Bird and a Tasty Freeze, and that he thought I’d like both.”

She continued, “We continued riding and I asked where the mall was. He told me that we probably wouldn’t get to go as much as we used to because it was in Savannah. Then, we drove by my school and I asked why there were so many windows, and he explained that the way school used to be, you just had fans and you would open the windows for ventilation, but he told me that I would be fine.

“At that point, I remember being in the backseat, and I busted out crying and said, ‘I want to go back to Lawrenceville,’” Williams said. “Now, my Dad said, ‘Give it time.’ What I didn’t realize as an 8-year-old is he was so right because what community is about is not buildings or whether or not you have Burger King or any of that, what I would learn is that community is about the people. It’s all about the people, and it’s about nothing but the people.”

Williams explained that this concept had grown truer to her throughout the years of her life. “The heart of the community is how people connect and bond, and how they grow together and support each other. Do we want growth? Of course, we want growth – we have people moving into this community all the time. Growth is good because we can offer resources to people if we have growth. But what really makes a community stronger is the ability to provide stability, security and peace to people that live here.”

According to Williams, community is similar to a quilt, in that it is several different people with different backgrounds coming together to make something beautiful. “We all come from different backgrounds. We all have different thoughts on life. We raise our kids differently. We go to different churches – we have different belief systems. We all look different. But when you knit us together, we make the most beautiful tapestry which is a unique, complete object that can serve a purpose,” she told the crowd. “Separately, we can still do things we need to do. But when we’re woven together, we are strong – we are beautiful, and we serve a purpose together. We are unified.”

She emphasized, “It takes every bit of material to make a quilt complete. If you leave a square out or a piece out in the middle, you have a hole, and it’s not serving its purpose. Having us all knitted together allows us to thrive. We all have to be willing to do that; it takes all of us playing our part.”

Other Aspects of the Night

The 51st Citizen of the Year event was hosted by Lyons Lions Club President Christian Burton, who entertained the crowd with his comedic banter and his unique performances of “Onionville” and “I’m a Believer.”

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