This photo of Sharonte’ and Reggie Williams is featured in Jet Magazine’s “Love” section.
ALBANY — Sharonte’ Williams had no clue why she had received an email from a Natural Resource Conservation Service district manager in Texas. She had been looking for a transfer within the federal NRCS from her office in Rutsburg, Va., so that she could be closer to Albany, closer to her husband, Reggie, to whom she’d been married only a little more than a month.
“I wasn’t looking to transfer to Texas, so I had no idea what the email might be about. I read it and yelled, ‘What?’ Everyone in my office was looking at me,” Williams laughed. “The email was from one of the agency’s employees congratulating me on being in Jet magazine. I had no idea.”
Neither Sharonte’ Williams nor her husband, Open Arms Runaway and Homeless Street Outreach Director Reggie Williams, had a clue that a photo taken during their honeymoon in Montego Bay, Jamaica, would be featured in the venerable magazine. The new bride, at the insistence of fellow U.S. 19 Church of Christ member Janice Brown, had sent a photograph to Jet’s “Love” section, but she had no indication that the magazine had even received the photo.
“When we didn’t even get an email back from Jet saying they’d gotten the picture, I told Reggie ‘Oh, well,’ and we just forgot about it,” Sharonte’ Williams said. “I was shocked to hear from my colleague that the photo was in Jet.
And since then we’ve just been getting tons of phone calls, emails and texts.
“I guess this is our 15 minutes of fame.”
Reggie Williams, who after a stellar career at Westover High School signed a basketball scholarship to play at South Carolina State University, came home to Albany to help deal with family problems. He eventually decided to stay and earned a Health, Physical Education and Recreation degree from Albany State University. While he’d always envisioned a coaching career, his work as youth director at U.S. Highway 19 Church of Christ indirectly led to a job at the Albany-based Open Arms crisis intervention agency.
“I knew I wanted to work with young people, and I always figured I’d do that coaching,” Reggie Williams said. “But the executive director of Open Arms (Fonda Strong) attends my church, and she asked me if I’d consider doing part-time work with them. I ended up enjoying the work, and it soon turned into full-time.”
Now Williams is director of Open Arms’ Street Outreach Program. He works with runaways or other troubled youngsters in an effort to reunite them with their families or find a stable place for them to live.
“We have a group home site in Lee County, and that’s one of the options,” he said. “Ultimately, though, we try to reunite the young people with their parents or some other family member who will provide a stable environment.”
Williams has contact with as many as 20 youngsters a month through his street outreach mentoring program or the Open Arms drop-in center at 603 Pine Ave.
Birmingham, Ala., native Sharonte’ Williams (nee Edmond), meanwhile, was excited to leave her position with the Georgia Forestry Commission for a job with the federal NRCS, but she took the position with the promise that after a year in the Virginia office she’d be in line for a transfer closer to home. She’s been there 14 months now.
“It’s so hard being away from Reggie; we’re newlyweds,” Sharonte’ Williams said. “The thing with Jet kind of took our minds off our situation for a little while, but we quickly came back to reality.
“We’re really honored to be featured in Jet magazine, which has been a big part of black culture in America for a long time.
They usually feature celebrities or children of celebrities, so it was just a huge surprise for our picture to show up. Everyone’s wanting to know how we did it, and they’re telling me I ought to go for the (magazine’s) ‘Beauty of the Week’ next.”
If she does, there will be plenty of interested folks who’ll keep her informed.