Health+Wellness - Recognizing Good People Who Do Good
By Linda Bausch
The definition of philanthropy: “The desire to promote the welfare of others, expressed especially by the generous donation of money to good causes.” This is not an uncommon theme in Napa Valley. In fact, it is something we do very well, personally and collectively. Good-hearted deeds are often done behind the scenes where recognition is not sought or required, but that doesn’t mean that those good deeds should go unnoticed.
When the Order Sons of Italy in America Napa #2043 made the philanthropic decision to donate a small portion of the funds raised from their annual Crab Feed toward a newly created community award, they had to ask themselves who or which nonprofit entity would be the recipient. It wasn’t an easy decision. They wanted to bestow their gift where good has been done, behind the scenes. As they embarked on their search, it began with a list that was long and somewhat ambiguous. Their initial choices were many, as members made their heartfelt suggestions. The group had quite a task to whittle it down to just one.
By the end of their thoughtful deliberations and numerous votes, a selection was made. Lee Williams, a long-time, local businessman was named as the recipient. The inaugural award of appreciation, and a check in the amount of $1,000, was presented to Mr. Williams during their Christmas Dinner meeting on December 9.
Lee Williams has been a Napa resident since 1961, when he moved here after completing his service in the United States Air Force. After arriving in town, he opened a service station at the corner of Foothill Boulevard and Old Sonoma Road. In the late 60s, he moved the business to the Soscol Avenue location.
In 1966, Lee joined the Napa Sheriff’s Mounted Posse, which has been in existence since 1949. It is the oldest working posse in California. The nonprofit organization is primarily involved in search and rescue––especially necessary when requiring the unique attention of a horse and rider. The Posse also deploys during local emergencies; they are at the ready whenever the need arises.
The Posse contributes in many meaningful ways, sponsoring fundraisers throughout the year, which allows them to pass the monetary donations of businesses and persons to help others in need. They have donated medical and hospital equipment to local organizations for decades. They make sure car seats are available to assist service groups to safely transport needy children to their doctor appointments. The public-at-large has been able to take advantage of the generous donations made by the Posse through the complimentary use of medical equipment and accessories such as wheelchairs, walkers, crutches, shower chairs, commodes, canes and more––all at no charge.
This is where Lee Williams’ quiet service to the public comes in . . .
Anyone who has had their car serviced at Williams Automotive will tell you that when you walk in to the shop, auto parts are not what you notice, it’s the medical equipment you step past on your way to the service counter. Since 1967, Williams Automotive has stored the equipment and served as a pick-up location for items donated by the Posse and others. He and his family members assist anyone in need of the items displayed, which are available on loan. This has been a lifeline for many locals throughout the years.
The policy is to take what you need, free of charge, and return it when you can. Over 2,600 people a year come to the shop to borrow items they may not be able to afford to buy. Multiply that count by 52 years, and the total number is overwhelming. Without a doubt, with that many people coming through the doors, Lee has help with the program. His son Mike, who has worked at the shop since 1977, has seen the equipment come and go, many times over. Lee’s grandson Michael worked in the shop off and on while he attended college, and he has been with them full-time the last four years. There are countless others who have contributed their time or equipment.
There is no way to measure the appreciation of those who have been helped by the program. Julie Querin, a Sons of Italy member, found herself in need of a wheelchair when her husband, Rudy, became ill. “It was such a blessing to be able to pick up something that we would have otherwise had to purchase. I bought other items we needed before I knew about the loan program at Lee William’s auto shop. This is a special thing they are doing, it means so much,” Julie said.
A friend of Julie’s found herself in need of the items that Julie had purchased but no longer needed. Of course, Julie passed them on to her friend, requesting only that when there was no longer a need, that the items were taken to Lee’s shop and donated. Full-circle, the favor was repaid by another act of kindness. Lee’s son Mike said, “My father doesn’t do this for recognition.”
“This is precisely why the Sons of Italy chose him.” Was the reply of Anna Graeber, President of the Napa Sons of Italy lodge, who presented Lee with a Certificate of Appreciation and the check during their December meeting, which also featured a festive holiday dinner prepared by Executive Chef and Culinary Director, Daryl Muromoto. “We are proud to honor Lee’s service to the community. It’s the beginning of a new tradition for us, because we plan to acknowledge many deserving people in the future.”
Vice President, Marisa Miller, added, “Our lodge motto is that we are all about fun and philanthropy. We hope you will join us at our next Crab Feed this coming February.” Tickets are still available by calling 224-5432.
It started with the Napa Sheriff’s Mounted Posse, and continues with us all. When you wonder where to make your next donation, please consider this cause, it will help more people than you will ever know. More information about the Napa Sheriff’s Mounted Posse can be found at countyofnapa.org.
If you or someone you know is in need, or if you have a donation of equipment, please call Williams Automotive at 252-6121, or stop by at 238 Soscol Avenue in Napa. Open Monday-Friday, 8 am to 5 pm.