We parents don’t expect our children to pay us back except to live a good life – and pay that forward.
Well, William David Williams, 27, is doing the unexpected through a Facebook fundraising campaign.
Since she was 25, Antoinette Bailey Williams has dedicated her life as a single mother to William David and his twin, Billy Dee Williams, both Millbrook High School grads, and their younger sister, Allison Antoinette Bailey.
William David, a second-year student at Columbia Law School, realized during a trip home that his mother was homeless and had been living with family and friends.
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Her rheumatoid arthritis, diagnosed soon after the twins were born, has grown progressively debilitating over the years. Add to it associated swelling, high blood pressure and two broken legs, and Antoinette Williams has been unable to work, or make ends meet.
William David created the campaign on Dec. 29. By 10 p.m. Jan. 25, he hopes to raise $7,000 in donations to help his mother find a place to live and pay security deposits and storage fees.
Within three hours of the Facebook page’s creation, the “chip-in” coffer for Antoinette Bailey Williams counted $440 in donations. A little over 24 hours after the page went up, it hit $1,000.
At press time, the official campaign-counter totaled $3,830. Add donations not contributed online and the total reached $4,000, William David said. With 12 days left in the campaign, Antoinette has started looking for a home.
“Anyone who is close to one or both of their parents knows that when you see suffering like this, time stops,” reads a Facebook post by William David, who played football at Notre Dame and later taught high school English in Oakland, Calif., for two years through Teach America.
“I’ve never done anything like this before,” he told me later. “I usually don’t tell everyone what’s going on in my personal situations, but I didn’t have a choice.
“I want to make sure I do everything for my mom in this situation. Everything counts.”
The campaign also includes donations of furniture and other household items.
‘Doing what we can’
William David will work at a law firm this summer, and will put some of his salary toward keeping his mother afloat. Early on, Billy Dee, a U.S. Army sergeant stationed in Ft. Stewart, Ga., was able to give their mother $1,500. Since that money ran out, Antoinette Williams has been living with family and friends in other parts of the state.
The twins’ sister is a freshman at Stanford University, where she is on the track team and studying to become a doctor. Each of the children made the grade in high school to gain acceptance into top-notch, historic universities willing to help them with financial aid scholarships.
“All three of us are doing what we can, trying to help a single parent out, our mom,” Billy Dee said, adding that family consensus is that their sister’s focus remain solely on school. “That everybody is helping us out, it’s a beautiful thing.”
Time to accept help
This has all been a learning curve for Antoinette. She’s skeptical and a bit embarrassed. Mostly, she fears we will, God forbid, judge her by her situation.
William David’s persistence led Antoinette to realize she had to allow her children to spread wings she nurtured.
“I trust you, and people know you’re a good man,” she said she told him.
The realization she shared with me is one any parent would marvel to witness: “It’s time to let them show me what they have learned,” she said of her sons. “I didn’t know it would be this soon, but both are of age where they can help me financially, spiritually and emotionally.
“I know it’s devastating, not just for me, but for them, too,” she said. “God bless them both.”
Antoinette also appreciates, with awe, the outpouring of support from around the country.
“It’s quite refreshing and it brought tears to my eyes,” she said. “It’s a depressing situation, but uplifting at the same time.”
Thing is others remember her as a hardworking, community-loving mother, dedicated to the children of whom she required their best.
“I’m starting to realize I have had a lot of families over the course of my life,” William David said. Donations have come from middle and high school friends, and communities in Midtown and beyond, including Notre Dame and N.C. A&T University, the school Billy Dee attended before being deployed to Iraq. Contributions also flow from Columbia Law, particularly the Columbia Law Review.
“This is an incredibly humbling experience,” William David wrote. “Please know that I will work to return the favor in whatever way possible.”