Pancakes and potatoes aren’t the only longstanding certainty giving off warmth at breakfast. For Baldwin-goers, Sheila Williams’ sunny smile and morning greetings offer another constant.
Born and raised in Albion, Williams graduated from Washington Gardener High School and attended Kalamazoo Community College for a few years before changing pathways to pursue her passions through cosmetology. As a 1965 graduate of Wright Beauty Academy located in Battle Creek, Williams continues to use her talents, doing her friend’s and coworkers’ hair.
Williams has been a part of the Baldwin team for nearly a decade, and her role goes beyond a few scoops on a plate. Whether it’s asking how students are or remembering their preferences, she continually gets to know the people around her better in order to take care of them.
From a long evening of studying or after an exhausting morning lift, Williams’ cheeriness helps uplift students. For former Briton Linemen, Jared and Jordan Jones ‘21, Williams’ kindness left lasting impacts.
“She always found a way to put a smile on my face and give me a little boost of energy in the morning,” Jordan said. “She really was my buddy… a friend, a listening ear, somebody to joke with.”
And it went the other way around as well.
“A lot of people in the mornings are grumpy and you know when we would go in and we’d have a smiling face, I think that for Sheila that would make her smile too,” Jared said. “If she was having a rougher day or anything like that, we would come in with a smile. We’d, you know, crack a joke and it would be better.”
What started off with simple kind words led to longer conversations and a stronger four-year relationship.
“My favorite thing about her was she’s kind of an advocate for us too,” Jared said, recollecting times when a group from the football team would come from a lift a few minutes before Baldwin would close. “She would go back (to the kitchen) and she’d be like ‘you guys need to make more food, there’s a lot of hungry boys coming through.”
Williams’ generosity and care extend so far that she even got in trouble for it, added Jordan.
“I knew if she was she was there I would never leave hungry,” he said, recalling a time Williams tried to give him two plates of food. “When the chef said ‘Sheila you can’t give him two plates’ she dumped it all onto the first one and said ‘fine, now it’s all one plate.”
For Williams, serving breakfast is more than just a job.
“I don’t have to work, but I do it because it gives me pleasure to you know, do something,” Williams said. “Some of the kids have been so nice to me. They’d come up to me and say I appreciate you for what you’re doing and that really makes me feel good.”
Williams’ compassion extends not only to students but to all those around her, which her co-workers emphasize. Kristy Maples, Williams’ co-worker and carpool partner, said from sharing new coats and purses to checking in with her friends, Williams is always looking for ways to share and spread joy.
“She’s a good, dependable worker and friend,” Maples said. “She tries to help everybody.”
Sharon Collier, a coworker and long-time friend of Williams, agreed.
“She is a really good friend,” said Collier. “If you’re in pain, she’ll give you a pill, and if your car’s not working she’ll take you to the store. She’s very helpful.”
One of the biggest influences in her life was her mother, who encouraged her to continuously improve herself. She said her mother always taught her “to be pleasant and not be rude to people,” an idea that she embodies as she continues to connect with students.
“If I can make somebody happy or laugh, you know in the mornings it’s good, it makes me feel good,” Williams said. “It’s just enjoyable, so there’s nothing really that I would rather do.”