LaGRANGE — You do not have to look far to see Pamela Williams’ willingness to help others achieve their life goals.
After all, the license plate on the back of her SUV reads “Second Chances.”
It is a belief that continues propelling her forward to help youths in the community, keeping them off the streets and out of trouble. Williams started her own program called Eve’s House of Hope and New Beginnings in November 2015. It is a nonprofit organization that teaches kids life skills and puts them to work making honest wages.
“I kept hearing about children and teens getting in trouble … stealing, robbing. … The kids said they needed money,” Williams explained. “So I started a lawn care service and put them to work … so they could buy what they needed and help out at home.”
Williams quickly learned most of what the youths and teens needed were basic, everyday items: school supplies, school clothes, food and more.
After spending part of the summer swimming in Williams’ pool, the youths, aged 10 to 14, started advertising their lawn care service and quickly received calls from interested customers.
Williams and her dad, Willie Williams, who owns a lawn maintenance business, taught the kids how to manicure yards. The youths mow grass, rake leaves and limbs, blow the sidewalks and walkways clear of clutter and even edge the lawns at homes around Troup County.
Williams stands guard and makes sure the youths are wearing the proper safety gear and correctly using the outdoor tools. Her personal SUV is their “work truck” that carries all the lawn equipment — and kids — to and from job sites.
While the lawn care service started as just a part-time summer job, the youths enjoyed it so much they have continued manicuring lawns after they get home from school. The group has 10 regular customers who call on a consistent basis, Williams said.
“They love working. When I don’t have a yard for them to cut, they’re disappointed,” she added.
Fourteen-year-old Nick Newton is the lawn care supervisor. He was getting in and out of trouble before joining the program, Williams said.
“He was awful in the beginning,” she said. “But then he started coming on a regular basis and worked so hard. He earned that position. I know I can run an errand and he will make sure things get done and everyone keeps on task.”
“I inspect the yards and make sure everything is cut right and everyone is doing their jobs,” Nick explained. “… This keeps me out of trouble and gives me something to do. … I like making money for myself.
“I feel special,” he added of his supervisory position.
“You are special,” Williams replied. “You answered that question right.”
The program director and Nick have a close bond.
“She’s like a momma to me,” he said. “She helps me out a lot and is just a really nice person.”
There is no set fee for Eve’s House of Hope and New Beginnings’ lawn care service. Nick and the customer decide on an amount ahead of time, which is really a donation to the program, Williams explained. The money is split evenly between the kids who work that day.
Each youth has their own account where their earnings are secured. It is governed by Williams, who allows the kids to withdraw money for necessities and save for big purchases.
Williams draws on her own life experiences to help the youths. While her family was taken care of financially, Williams wanted to make her own money and started working at McDonald’s when she was 15, her dad said. She bought her first car when she was 16 years old and her first home when she was 19.
“She stepped out on faith. She wanted her own home, own money … and she worked hard to achieve that,” said Willie Williams.
That work ethic is something the Williamses also want to instill in the youths.
Eventually, the goal is to help the older kids find other jobs, she said. On days when there are no yards cut, Williams, her dad and program advisor Ernest Ward teach the youths life skills, such as how to properly fill out a job application, open a savings account, apply for their learner’s permit and more.
“Our main goal is to reduce criminal activities, keep kids out of gangs and away from drugs. … We teach them to save their money too,” Williams explained. “We want these kids to grown up and be productive citizens … to go to college or start their own business and not end up in jail.”
“I was one of these kids, getting into trouble … but someone took interest in me and helped me. It changed my life,” Ward said. “My family was on welfare, received food stamps … but my mom taught me the value of an education and to have a good work ethic. … Now, I have kids. I became a teacher … those that helped me didn’t just change my life, but every generation that came from me and are learning from me. That’s what Pam (Williams) is doing with this program too.”
Right now, there are 10 youths in the Eve’s House of Hope and New Beginnings program. Williams said she would like to have more, but her SUV can only hold so many children at one time. She is also responsible for picking the youths up from school or their home and dropping them off at night.
Williams hopes to purchase a passenger van that would allow her to add more kids to the program.
“Our children have to start doing better,” she said. “Stop getting in trouble and going to jail or prison.”
Anyone who is interested in learning more about the Eve’s House of Hope and New Beginnings program or would like to use their lawn service contact Pamela Williams at 706-333-3900. People can also text Nick Newton at 706-616-0767.
Melanie Ruberti is a reporter with LaGrange Daily News. She can be reached at 706-884-7311, ext. 2156.