Nancy Williams, the face of area literacy efforts for more than a decade, has announced her retirement as executive director of Literacy Volunteers of the Lowcountry, effective Feb. 1.
Williams’ involvement with literacy began before her current appointment, however — longer even than the 21 years that she has spent at LVL.
Her spark for working in the field was lit in Simsbury, Conn., when someone in her church there spoke about volunteering to tutor Cambodian immigrants in Hartford’s adult literacy program. After she moved to Hilton Head Island, she read about the need here for basic literacy skills and signed on as a volunteer in 1991. It became the perfect fit for the former English teacher and human resources professional.
She later was trained by Literacy Volunteers of America (today ProLiteracy) to conduct Conversational English programs — now called English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) for immigrants and became a part-time ESOL instructor and volunteer ESOL and basic literacy trainer at LVL.
In 1996 she was named the group’s director of ESOL programs. In that post she was instrumental in responding to the language needs of a burgeoning Spanish-speaking immigrant population. She helped enlarge LVL’s network of satellites, launched three family literacy programs, and secured grant funding for computerized English language instruction and an open broadcast of Crossroads Café, a situational television “dramedy” that teaches English in 26 entertaining episodes.
Nancy was named LVL’s executive director in 2002. Today the group serves about 700 adult learners annually at eight locations in Beaufort and Jasper counties and has 14 paid staff members and 200 volunteers.
Under her leadership, LVL has increased linkages with workforce development; entered into a collaborative relationship with Jasper-Hampton Adult Education; strengthened its 26-year partnership with Beaufort County Adult Education; enhanced technology, and increased fundraising. During Nancy’s tenure, LVL’s development staff and Friends of Literacy launched Cooks & Books, LVL’s signature fundraising event.