HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – They say home is where the heart is, and those who call 305 8th Street home are thankful for the little things.
“I still have a thank you letter today, thanking me for cheese,” said executive director Andrea Williams.
That letter is more than 12 years old; it’s from when Williams took over 305 8th Street. She creates that sense of home for those who need her, all while being a mother and wife.
"I tell my family that if they were appreciative of getting a glass of water, like at 8th Street, I might be a little nicer at home," Williams joked.
But at this home, she leads another family, however unconventional.
"We have adults with autism, brain injuries, intellectually disabled, where their disability hits a brick wall," she explained.
That's where she, and this home, step in for those who fall through the cracks of government assistance, often overlooked by their own community. Williams and her staff help manage finances, provide stability, forging a sense of belonging.
From the youngest resident to the oldest, everyone has a warm bed to sleep in at night and everyone has a chore at the 6,000 square foot home, which was built in 1949.
They cook, clean, do laundry and yard work, everything a homeowner would be responsible for.
But with a servant's heart, it's hard to get Williams to talk about herself. But she has tons to say about the residents.
"What I've learned from them, I know the community can learn just as much."
That's also why being nominated came as a surprise.
"I was just like 'What in the world? It had to be a resident,'" Williams said. "And it was. It was Jeffrey Scarborough. It's just so sweet."
Scarborough, who nominated Williams, says she is like a second mother.
"Anytime she walks in the door, she brings a smile to your face," Scarborough said.
Williams says it's a calling, passed down to her by the family that ran the home for years, the family that adopted her.
"I would go to 8th Street before dance class," Williams said. "8th Street has been part of my life since I came into their life."
Under her watch, it has expanded. She called on friends, volunteers, and local businesses. because they get no federal or state funding.
"We have to raise at least $250,000 a year just to match for care," Williams explained.
It's a daunting task but she does it every year. She says they deserve a chance, a home, and to feel empowered.
"She focuses on our strengths and not our weaknesses," Scarborough said.
While this unique family she leads calls her remarkable, she has her own ideas of what is truly remarkable about 305 8th Street.
"Anyone you look at in history who has been remarkable in a sense has had people around them that made them that way," Williams said. "Our residents are that. They're remarkable. Their ability to be resilient in all of life's circumstances and any challenge that was thrown their way is what makes me admire them just as much."
We appreciate all of you who nominated a remarkable woman here in north Alabama. Fran is the first of four finalists and we'll tell their stories.
So you'll hear about four north Alabama trailblazers.
Join us March 6, 2020, on WHNT News 19 This Morning for a big reveal of our "Most Remarkable" semi-finalist. That woman will win a trip to New York City to attend The Mel Robbins Show.
Cummings Aerospace recognizes Remarkable Women.