SARASOTA, FL – Jone Williams, Educational Outreach Director for Safe Children Coalition, has recently been honored at the national level for her work with children and families. Williams is responsible for the HIPPY (Home Instruction for Parents of Preschool Youngsters) Program for Sarasota County as well as oversees Safe Children Coalition’s Achievers Program for teens.
Out of 12 nominees from throughout the nation, Williams won the Avima D. Lombard Award at the HIPPY National Leadership Conference in Mobile, Ala. in April. The award is presented to a HIPPY staff person at a local, state, or national program office in the U.S. whose professional services have made a significant contribution to HIPPY and to improving the lives of young children and their families. Individuals selected for the award embody the late Lombard’s dedication to the equalization of educational opportunities for young children and her active and determined approach to work.
Williams learned that she was nominated for the award after two days of site visits and the observation of a staff meeting, parent meeting and home visits; the Florida HIPPY office submitted her name for consideration. The award was presented during the HIPPY 2023 National Conference in Mobile, Ala., during the Avima Gala on April 16.
“It’s a great honor to be recognized, especially since I had met Avima several times,” said Williams. “It was wonderful to speak with her about our work getting children ready for school. I always thanked her for developing the program; it’s a joy working with the families and helping children to be prepared for success in school.”
“Jone Williams exemplifies the true definition of servant leadership. She excels at building community,” said Lidia Clarke, Associate State Director of Florida HIPPY. “In every interaction you have with Jone, you hear about the way in which HIPPY has changed the trajectory of children and families in Sarasota. I am honored to know her and feel so much pride in knowing how impactful she has been in sharing HIPPY with generations past and present.”
HIPPY is a home-based early intervention program that helps parents teach their 2-5-year-old children. Early literacy and language skills are crucial in helping children be kindergarten-ready, so that they are poised to be successful learners. The ages of 2-5 are especially important as children experience rapid cognitive development and building of language skills. There are 125 area families currently participating in Safe Children Coalition’s HIPPY program.
Williams says that she was first exposed to the HIPPY program 30 years ago, when she saw a flyer asking if caretakers wished to be their child’s first teacher and participate in the HIPPY Program. At the time, her son was 3 years old; she felt she had taught him all the basics for entering kindergarten. She contacted the program coordinator to ask questions about this new program in our community. She was offered a part-time job, at 15 hours a week, by the first local coordinator of the program.
She was hired as a paraprofessional, someone who would go into the homes to provide a curriculum, storybooks and more on a weekly basis and work with parents to prepare their children for kindergarten. She moved up to assistant coordinator of the program and then, when the coordinator left the position and another hire didn’t work out, she lobbied for the position and has been serving children and families in this role ever since.
“The reason I am so passionate about HIPPY is I know first-hand that it works,” Williams said. “My son went through the program, graduated high school and college, and now works with children himself at Girls Inc. We both have a love for children and for the benefits – to children, families and communities – of early childhood education.”
Williams was born and raised in Ft. Myers, Fla., and graduated from Riverdale High School. She attended Ft. Myers Business College and Manatee Community College – now State College of Florida – where she received certifications in the Early Childhood field. Through her service to the community, she notes she has been honored to see several generations come through the HIPPY program; there are currently 10 moms who she worked with when they were kids in the 1990s/early 2000s. She has seen many HIPPY kids get their education who are now employed at good jobs. She has seen multiple generations of positive impact.
“We are so honored to have Jone serving children and families on our organization’s behalf,” said SCC president and CEO Brena Slater. “Her decades of service have been essential in helping new generations achieve success in school and life. We congratulate Jone on this well-deserved recognition!”
Williams has been a member of Business & Professional Women/North Sarasota since 2004; is on the executive committee for the Sarasota County Branch NAACP as well as a co-advisor for the Sarasota NAACP Youth Council; is a past Community Health Worker for the Newtown Wellness program, where she volunteered for years; and was a certified breast cancer awareness facilitator for the Susan G. Komen Foundation as well as for other forms of cancer.
Awards she has received include: the UnSung Hero Award from the Community Foundation of Sarasota County & the Wilson Wood Foundation; BPW/North Sarasota’s Woman of the Year Award; Second Chance Last Opportunity’s Woman of Wisdom Award; Westcoast Center for Human Development’s Women of Light Award; WWSB ABC7’s Amazing Women Award; Woman of the Year Award from Zeta Phi Beta sorority; Women who make a difference in their community award from Hurst Chapel A.M. E.; Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Citizen of the Year Award and, earlier this year, was named a Woman in Power honoree by the National Council of Jewish Women at its annual Women in Power Luncheon.
Additionally, the HIPPY program earned the distinction of Best Education Program from the Sarasota Branch NAACP in 2002.
For more information about Safe Children Coalition, visit sccfl.org.
About Safe Children Coalition, Inc.
Safe Children Coalition, Inc. (SCC) serves as the lead agency for community-based care for Sarasota, Manatee and DeSoto counties. SCC is a collaboration between local community agencies who provide services to children and families in need. SCC is committed to protecting children, strengthening families, and building community. The core functions provided by SCC include child welfare case management, foster care, adoption, independent living, prevention, diversion, quality management, and support services. Visit sccfl.org or call 941-371-4799.