Motivating Stories from Local Women
Every woman has a story to tell, and no two stories are alike. Meet the women who have persevered through challenges and tribulations and come out the other side stronger than ever. These unique individuals have seen their fair share of adversity but continue to inspire those around them with the lessons they have learned and their love of life. Read on for a truly motivating story by a woman who experienced them firsthand.
Photography by Sarah Unger
Elizabeth Williams, East Brainerd
I’m the eldest of nine and a native of Springfield, Massachusetts. My parents loved children and, although it was a major financial sacrifice, Mom and Dad blessed us with a blended family of biological, fostered, and adopted brothers and sisters – six boys and three girls. There was a lot of love, joy, and laughter in our noisy home!
After graduate school, I landed in Miami and enjoyed wonderful careers in education and philanthropy with United Negro College Fund, United Way, Miami Dade Community College, Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau, and others. I loved South Florida and thought it could be my forever destination. My parents had retired and relocated to the Tampa Bay area, so I was able to visit frequently.
Dad passed in 2001. And as life would have it, Mom’s health declined at the same time that I was experiencing a major disappointment in my professional journey. The speedbump in my career provided me with the opportunity to step in and help my family. It allowed me to enjoy Mom and to be with her until her passing. That time with her, and my sister Beckie who was also Mom’s caregiver, was precious beyond words.
After Mom died, I had a decision to make. Do I return to South Florida or move onto new opportunities that I had identified through my great network of family and friends? I longed for a new adventure, and I was eager to return to education and to work with children. I was curious and excited when I learned about a great opportunity in Chattanooga. I visited, and six months after Mom’s death, I made Chattanooga my home.
Out of that loss and pain came the freedom to redefine my journey. Now seven years later, I am at Chattanooga Preparatory School – the place where I have found the most joy and the greatest purpose. I’ve also been able to serve as a founding member of the Sankofa Fund for Civic Engagement and as a board member for the Community Foundation of Greater Chattanooga and Chattanooga Symphony & Opera.
I am delighted to be able to merge both of my passions, education and philanthropy, and I look back to the lessons with which Mom and Dad have grounded me on the importance of giving back to our communities. HS