Hometown Heroes: Rosalie Williams

Rosalie Williams (right) of Bakersfield, with Gov. Phil Scott at the opening of the Lucas J. Williams Memorial Youth Fund pavilion in 2019.

BAKERSFIELD — “I'm here for a purpose,” Rosalie Williams told the Messenger. “So many things have happened to me through my life, that I must have a mission, a goal, because I'm still here.”

Williams is the head of the Lucas James Williams Memorial Youth Fund in Bakersfield, a non-profit that organizes summer youth programs, food distributions, hunter's education classes, fishing derbies, a Haunted Forest and more.  

Williams started the fund more than 20 years ago in honor of her son Lucas, a U.S. Marine who died during a training exercise in Kuwait in 1998. She has since battled many medical issues, but has continued to be the organization’s matriarch, feeling that it’s her life’s purpose to provide the area’s youth with a place where they can just be kids. 

“If you provide something, kids are going to have fun,” she said. “They can make positive choices, socialize, run around with sticks. You don’t see that very often.” 

In the years since its founding, the fund has acquired more than 10 acres of land off of Waterville Mountain Road and received dozens of donations from the community. In 2019, a pavilion was built at the site, providing a structured space for events. Gov. Phil Scott was there for its unveiling. 

This summer, the fields were utilized by about 300 students in the Franklin Northeast Supervisory Union’s LEAPS summer enrichment program. 

Students from Enosburg, Berkshire, Richford and Montgomery came on Fridays to use the swimming pool, play games and enjoy a barbeque lunch cooked by Williams. 

“Having those kids there brought Lucas' dream back and reminded us why we do what we do,” she said. “It’s all about having fun. Some of the supervisors were even sliding down the hill on a piece of cardboard.” 

On Aug. 20, the fund hosted its biggest annual fundraiser, a day of volleyball and cornhole tournaments, music and food. 

“We had a good turnout,” Williams said. “The last year and a half, we weren’t able to do too much because of the pandemic, so the money raised will be geared towards just getting back on track.”

In the future, Williams would like to purchase weather-resistant curtains for the pavilion. Doing so would allow the pavilion, which can also be rented for birthday parties, weddings and other celebrations, to be utilized on rainy days and in colder weather. 

Q:  What has kept you motivated all these years? 

A:  I'll never forget … It was probably 1996, 1997, Lucas was a snowboarder. That was back before snowboards were really accepted on the mountain. For $5 you could go to Jay Peak and get a rental and a lesson. 

One day he didn’t go, so I asked “Did you get in trouble? Talk to me. What’s going on?” He looked at me and he put both arms on the banister — I can still see him standing there today — And he said, “Mom, some of my friends don’t have the $5. If they can't make it so that everybody can go, then I'm not going.” 

He turned and went upstairs and that has stuck with me ever since, because you can't put people in categories. You can't judge people for what they have. 

I am a woman of color. I've grown up in Bakersfield, lived my whole life here, 66 years. I've had some negative interactions, but I don't have time for that. Lucas' wishes and dreams are more important than maybe things that I've had to deal with or what our family had to deal with.

Q:  What do you view as the fund’s greatest success?

A:  Hearing from kids, even those who are perfect strangers, say they want to come back. This summer, I had a little boy say to me, “Miss Rosalie, when I first got off the bus, I thought I was going to be bored. But this is fun. This is awesome.”

Also this summer, some of our original campers decided they wanted to have a reunion, which was pretty cool. They came here when they were 7, 8, 9 years-old and now they are 30, 31, bringing their own kids this time. 

When we first started 20 years ago, we had 40-foot tents with a 100-foot extension cord, a gas grill and a boombox that ran with eight D batteries. Some tables and chairs.

Now we have a home, something solid. 

Written By

Managing Editor

she/her | Bridget is the Messenger’s managing editor. She oversees the newsroom and covers the Maple Run and Franklin West school districts, the communities of St. Albans and Fairfax and pays attention to recreation, food and the arts. She's also an avid cyclist and skier. 


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