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Charity comes from the heart

Features Columnist

Photo by Vicki Harris

Photo by Vicki Harris

Some people think that giving to charity means throwing coins into a bucket at Christmastime, writing a check each year, or leaving money behind after they are gone.

Sometimes, true charity means humbly giving your time and your talents in heartfelt service, caring just as selflessly for people you know and love as you do those who will never know your name. Though both kinds of giving are necessary and valuable, it is the latter donor who often leaves the most quiet, yet lasting, impression.

Jerry Williams was that person. And I wish I had known him.

Jerry Williams first started volunteering for Albany Community Hospice in 2004. A native of Columbus, he moved to south Georgia in 1978 and began work for the Marine Corps Logistics Base as a computer programmer. Most Thursdays for the past nine years, he helped with data entry at Hospice, and at other times visited hospice patients. Jerry not only shared his kind spirit and words with them, but often did maintenance of their homes and other small jobs that needed taking care of.

A true hospice angel. That is how his friend Tina Perruquet, volunteer coordinator at Albany Community Hospice, describes him. A lot of fun; a dear friend.

Jerry was always willing to help. And when hospice administration approached him with an unusual task, he took on the challenge.

“He was willing to try,” says Perruquet, remembering when they approached him about using his accomplished woodworking skills to build caskets for indigent patients whose families could not afford to purchase them, and for others who have no family at all.

“I will do it for hospice,” he told Perruquet.

Jerry researched the process and soon made his first wooden casket, which was used almost immediately. In the course of about two years, he made four or five. Some were used for homeless people with no family. Others were used for patients whose families simply did not have the means.

“They were so appreciative. The families were so grateful,” remembers Perruquet.

Jerry never wanted attention for this incredible gift he was giving. He said he did not want praise, always reminding those who asked that he was doing it for hospice, not for himself.

Over the years Jerry also made a wooden prayer box for the chapel at Willson Hospice House and wooden recycling bins for the facility. He was working on a wooden brochure rack to be used there when he died suddenly, yet peacefully, in his sleep on May 10. Just that day, he had volunteered at hospice, visited a hospice patient, attended his granddaughter’s soccer game, and eaten dinner with his family. Jerry Williams was 71.

The last casket Jerry made is tucked away at Willson Hospice House, waiting to be used. It will be bittersweet when that day comes, but it will be a tribute to a great, humble man who was always willing to help, always with a smile on his face. A true blessing.

At Jerry’s funeral, Perruquet says that his family thanked her and hospice for all they did for Jerry.

“I was surprised, because it was Jerry who did so much for us,” she says. “He was, and is, our angel.”

Jerry is survived by his wife Martha, of Leesburg; two sons; two daughters; a brother; two sisters, and six grandchildren.

Some people think that charity is only about giving money. Sometimes, true charity means humbly and selflessly giving your time and talents to people who may never know your name. Always with a smile on your face.

Jerry Williams was that person. And I wish I had known him.

Contact columnist Mandy Flynn at flyn1862@bellsouth.net.