BY RACHELLE HENDRICKSON //
PHOTOS BY // MICHAEL GLEASON PHOTOGRAPHY
I recently had the honor of interviewing my friend, President and CEO of Whaley Children’s Center, Mindy Williams. The Whaley Foundation was incorporated in 1924. Mindy Williams has been the head of Whaley for the past four years.
There are many moving parts to Whaley, and when you step inside you can see that. The staff there is very friendly and just amazing. At the forefront of Whaley is Mindy. She started her career working for the state of Michigan, following in her mother Kathy’s footsteps. It’s very rare in this day and age to find people who truly love their job or are so passionate about it, but Mindy Williams is one of the exceptions. You can tell she loves the kids at Whaley like her own and enjoys her work immensely. She often works between 60 and 70 hours some weeks.
Whaley has become home to many kids in our area who have survived neglect, abuse and various unforeseen circumstances. When I recently visited, I was pleasantly surprised at how warm and inviting it was there. It truly feels like a home. You can feel and see Mindy’s loving touches throughout the building. One of things Mindy told me was that she doesn’t want people to feel sad when they think of Whaley. Whaley is a home and they are a family.
She told me a story about a young man who made some bad choices. They had to remove him, but he showed great remorse and apologized. He asked for a second chance and Mindy said, with tears in her eyes, “Yes, if your family won’t give you a second chance who will?” The young man was grateful and came back. When he was old enough to leave, he wrote her a very heartfelt letter thanking her, and she keeps it in her drawer and often rereads it.
I asked Mindy what her favorite part of her job was. She said it’s when she walks outside and hears kids playing and the sound of their laughter. The kids had the chance to make water balloons last summer, and in the fall they were able to jump into the leaves. Recently they made snow angels. Many of the kids had never experienced some of these things and Mindy had so much fun right alongside of them.
“THE BEST KIND OF PEOPLE ARE THE ONES THAT
COME INTO YOUR LIFE AND MAKE YOU SEE THE SUN
WHERE YOU ONCE SAW CLOUDS.
THE PEOPLE THAT BELIEVE IN YOU SO MUCH
THAT YOU START TO BELIEVE IN YOU TOO.
THE PEOPLE THAT LOVE YOU, SIMPLY FOR BEING YOU.
THE ONCE-IN-A-LIFETIME KIND OF PEOPLE.”
– UNKNOWN –
The hardest part of her job is perhaps juggling the funding. The state funds 75 percent, and so Whaley has fundraisers such as the annual roof sit, the World’s Greatest Office Party and others to help cover costs and pay for extras such as basketball camp. It’s also very hard when the kids are moved in and out quickly, and it can be very bittersweet when they leave for good.
On a trip to Arizona last summer, Mindy was visiting a children’s residence there as she often likes to do, and this one had a resale shop run by some of the older kids. Mindy had a brainstorm and said, “We could 100 percent do this at Whaley.” So a new, high-end resale shop at Whaley was brought to fruition. “Reclaimed” is in downtown Flint on West Second Street just off of South Saginaw Street, and is a very nice resale store that gives kids from Whaley a chance to enter the workforce. It’s a great concept and a truly beautiful store.
In Mindy’s spare time, she loves to cook, bake and cheer on her son Logan in the many sports he plays. Logan, a junior at Flint Powers Catholic, can also be seen many days at Whaley volunteering and helping his mom. He’s a wonderful kid and a fantastic athlete. He too is considering following in his grandma’s and mom’s footsteps and considering a career in social work.
Mindy’s long-term goal for Whaley is to build a new campus in a more rural setting in the next five years. Our community is very fortunate to have Mindy Williams and the great and caring staff at Whaley. Whaley Children’s Center is a such a vital part of our community. Thank you so much for all you do, Mindy! And thanks to the staff at Whaley for Being the Difference.