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Laura Kern Williams
Laura grew up in Montgomery, AL and graduated from Auburn University with a degree in public relations and journalism. She and her husband, Scott, met while both working in Washington, D.C.  They live in Homewood, AL and are parents to two grown sons; Kern and Miller.

After their first son was born Laura stopped working full-time (*for a paycheck.) Not one to sit still for long, she served in numerous volunteer roles. She has led teams in preparing and delivering meals, in partnership with Greater Birmingham Ministries, for children in summertime daycare and organized "backpack" food teams in preparing and delivering food to children in metro area schools. Laura served as PTO President for Edgewood Elementary School and PTO President for Homewood High School and offers that those tasks are definitely not for the faint of heart.  She also says that the opportunity to get to know so many Homewood students was a wonderful bonus.

Laura has been a STAIR tutor for four years, is currently a first vice president of the Edgewood Garden Club and works part time at The Cook Store of Mountain Brook.  Laura and Scott are members of First United Methodist Church, Birmingham where they each serve in lay leadership positions. 

Why have you decided to serve as a Torchbearer for the JLB?
The most concise answer I can give is the global pandemic. Like a lot of people, I sat in my house for months, terrified by the fear that every item crossing the threshold was contaminated. Once we learned COVID-19 was mostly airborne, fear of being around people took over. I inherited my love for people and gift for hospitality from my mother so fearing the company of others is irrational, sad and incoherent for me. Scott and I live by an open-door policy at our house -- the more the merrier, all are welcomed and there's truly always room for one more. Until now. One sleepless night it hit me. How privileged I am to say I'm bored. Cases of domestic violence, child abuse and suicide are on the rise. I am worried about students I've known and students I tutored. How is the child whose father showed up at school one afternoon and was escorted away by police officers? Is he somewhere safe with his mother?  I knew a child who lived with his mother and a younger sibling in a teetering situation. His mother was looking for work; she wanted a better place for them to live that did not include their father. Surely the pandemic has affected her ability to work and maintain safe childcare.  I am serving as a 2021 Torchbearer because it's the least I can do and the most I can do. 

What/who inspires you to be a Light in our community?
I am a news hound. I love to read about politics, sports, food and people in other parts of the world. How they live, what they eat, where they worship, how their communities are organized and their children are educated. One Sunday in December the New York Times included a special section called The Epicenter. It detailed a corner of Queens where the virus hit harder "than almost anywhere else in the United States." I've reread it a half dozen times and am inspired by the lives of people I try to imagine. Multiple generations living together under the same, often small, roof. Frightened people in danger with no place to go and no way to get there. Frontline workers without the privilege of boredom. Though we are Birmingham, not Queens, I am reminded of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr's words: "We may have all come on different ships but we're in the same boat now."

 As always, women and children are the most vulnerable.

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