Sister Hazel honored for work with homeless


Sister Hazel Kirkland Williams of Sister Hazel's Angels of Mercy has been devoted to helping Gainesville's homeless population for the past several decades.

Sun file photo
Published: Saturday, January 19, 2008 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 18, 2008 at 9:20 p.m.

At the Martin Luther King Hall of Fame banquet tonight, Sister Hazel Kirkland Williams of Sister Hazel's Angels of Mercy ministry will be the 22nd individual inducted as part of the two-week long 2008 King Celebration.

The annual award, established in 1986, is given by the Martin Luther King Commission of Florida, Inc. to honor members of the community who have demonstrated the principles and deeds of Dr. King.

"You just can't imagine how much he influenced my life," Williams said. "I am truly blessed to be receiving this award."

Williams, who will turn 83 this March, has been devoted to helping Gainesville's homeless population for the past several decades. Every Sunday afternoon, the homeless gather at the St. Francis House in downtown Gainesville to dine on a hot meal and listen to Williams deliver a sermon, which is inevitably filled with a message of hope. She has helped people from all walks of life - but especially people recently released from incarceration - get back on their feet, she said.

"We are the ones who are honored to recognize her work," said Commissioner Rodney Long, chairman of the MLK Commission. "I can't think of anyone more deserving."

In addition, she has led the community in efforts to establish a variety of services for those down on their luck.

From providing daily meals and clothes, to fund-raising for a free clinic, to simply comforting the ailing, Williams had been ceaseless in her efforts to provide ways for the homeless to get a new start.

"This is the greatest King celebration yet that this city has seen," Williams said. "It makes me want to do more and more."

To reach Sister Hazel's Angels of Mercy ministries call 378-9496.

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