Dover Community Center's Williams to retire after 40 years

By Mike Finney
Posted 4/8/24

DOVER — If it is true that the hand that rocks the cradle is the hand that rules the world, then Juliette Williams wields a ton of power.

Ms. Williams, 82, has taken care of hundreds of …

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Dover Community Center's Williams to retire after 40 years


DOVER — If it is true that the hand that rocks the cradle is the hand that rules the world, then Juliette Williams wields a ton of power.

Ms. Williams, 82, has taken care of hundreds of Kent County-area children over the last four decades at the Dover Educational and Community Center at 744 River Road in the Capital Green development.

While the opportunity seemingly came out of the blue, looking after children turned out to be Ms. Williams’ calling.

“The school-aged children, they come in and they have a lot of energy,” she said. “They come off the buses sometimes and we’re out there waiting for them and greeting them and asking them did they have a good day?

“You know, all those things are important in life, to let them know that you care about them and showing them some love. I used to ask God, ‘What is my mission?’ And since I was ill (recently), I sat down and I said, ‘This is my mission. This is what I was supposed to do.’”

She said he recent health issues played a part in her retirement.

For her and the scores of children she has interacted with, the past 40 years have been quite a ride.

“I came from a small family, and it was just my brother and I, and he was 13 and a half years older than me,” Ms. Willaims said. “So, that’s a big gap between the two of us. I’ve always loved children. That’s been my whole life.

“I worked with the toddlers, and I worked with school-aged children — you just know that you’re supposed to be here. You don’t know if they’ve had a nice meal last night before they went to bed or if they slept well … you just don’t know.

“I’ve always tried to make sure that they’ve had something to eat, make sure that they’re comfortable, and when they’re napping and laying down, I make sure they’re laying down. All children need to be loved, even us as adults. It takes a lot of patience and a lot of love.”

Charlene Jones-Kellam, Ms. Williams’ daughter, is extremely proud of her mother’s accomplishments.

While most of her mom’s work goes unnoticed, she has gone to work every day just trying to make a difference in a young person’s life.

“My mother has been a pillar in the community here,” said Ms. Jones-Kellam. “Along with taking care of children that are grown, and their children, including the children who are at-risk. This is like a target area where they were brought, and my mother had that.”

The Rev. Dr. Patricia Green, of Mount Enon Baptist Church in Milford, said she has also been inspired by Ms. Williams over the years.

“She is one of our greatest inspirations,” the pastor said. “She’s one of the mothers of our church — very spiritual, very inspirational — the kind that younger mothers and younger women can talk to, and even the pastor can talk to.”

Rev. Rita Mishoe Paige, who is the board president at the Dover Educational and Community Center, could not thank Ms. Williams enough for her service to the community’s children.

“She’s from the old school,” the Rev. Paige said. “She is truly committed to the children, truly cares about the students, and they go beyond and above.”

Ms. Williams said she had no idea many years ago what her calling in life was going to be.

“I started (at the Dover Educational and Community Center) on February 4th, 1984. I worked with the late Emily Morris. I was only supposed to be here for two weeks. I told her I’ve been around trying to find a job but they’re saying that I’m overqualified.

“She said, ‘Oh, I need somebody to work with me.’”

It turns out that she found her passion — and calling — from just a couple of weeks of what she expected to be a temporary job.

She has witnessed a lot of changes to the children in her care over the years.

“Children have changed dramatically over the years,” Ms. Williams said. “Now they have their computers, and they have laptops and they’re involved in that. It’s nothing like it used to be when you’d be able to go outside and play and climb trees, but that’s long gone.

“I’ve been a mother and I’ve been a grandmother to other children. I’ve had children here with two-parent homes and single-parent mothers and single-parent fathers, and it even went to a thing where they had a grandmother raising their grandchildren and great grandchildren.”

Some of her alumni still come back and check on Ms. Williams, who was always there for them.

“I had a young man come to me out of the church. He was up playing the piano, and he came down and said, ‘Ms. (Williams), you made me who I am.’ We gave him something positive in life and now he says, ‘I’m going to church, I’m in the ministry, I play the piano and instruments and everything.’

“You know, that just made me feel wonderful. That just shows some of the work that I’ve done in helping others in the community.”

While Ms. Williams is looking forward to her retirement and spending some time at the Modern Maturity Center in Dover with some friends, she promises to still have an impact on children.

“I want to join Read Aloud so I can continue reading to the children,” she said. “I love reading to the children, singing to the children, marching and dancing and all of that — it all gives the children something positive and when they grow old, they even think about it.”

Children are a large part of Ms. Williams’ life that make her feel complete.

“When parents come in they go, ‘Ms. (Williams) I want you to take my child and raise my child and give her what she needs. It could also be a little boy,” she said.

“That’s when I’d say to them, ‘How are you with everything? Are you satisfied here?’, and she’d say, ‘Oh yes, my mother told me to bring those children back to you because you know how to take care of them.

“That made me feel good.”

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