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I Love My Community: Karen Rea Williams

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Karen Rea-Williams, businesswoman, community volunteer and public health advocate, sat down with HERLIFE Magazine recently to share her dedication to family and community.

HLM: How long have you lived here? What do you love most?
KR: I came to Stockton in 1983 and was welcomed by Presentation Church members, Delta College, Jack and Jill of America members and the community. I moved between Fresno, where I met my husband, and Sacramento for a few years and returned to Stockton in 2010, where I started my own business along with purchasing my first and second homes in Stockton. The positive impact Stockton had on my life outweighs the negative press.

HLM: How is your heart inspired to serve the community?
KR: My best friend committed suicide because of domestic violence, and so I’m committed to the Women Center’s board. Other roles: past president of the North Stockton Rotary; board of United Cerebral Palsy of San Joaquin, Calaveras & Amador Counties; president of the Stockton (CA) Chapter of the Links Incorporated. I think it is important for young African American women and men to see a group of professional and compassionate women who look like them.

HLM: What sparks joy for you?
KR: My extraordinary family. My mother is 95 and works out twice a week; she began swimming lessons at 90. My two sisters are phenomenal authors and entrepreneurs in the field of psychology and law. My daughter is an artistic director of two schools in Harlem and Lake Placid, New York, and involved in two fellowships. Her husband is a certified financial advisor, and my husband is retired officer and service member. My fabulous family is not a spark but a Fourth of July celebration.

HLM: Top three bucket list goals?
KR: Dining at Tokimeite in London, a restaurant started by a 7-Michelin-star chef; traveling to a different country every year starting in 2023; parasailing but I am afraid of water.

HLM: What accomplishment are you most proud of?
KR: Giving birth to my wonderful and talented daughter and assisting in the raising of our grandchildren. Taking a leap of faith and starting my own business as a contractor without the reliance of state benefits, insurance or pension, and my extensive service providing healthcare to the invisible incarcerated populations at the highest level and making changes to laws and regulations that support the incarcerated while imprisoned and the community upon their release.

HLM:: Can you describe a key event that had an impact on your life?
KR: My older sister is a phenomenal person professionally and personally. She was my path. When I moved to California, I found I needed my own voice. I had to grow and flourish quickly to survive, and I had the tools to do so with the past and present support of my family. I looked for a career that made a lot of money and took the least amount of time to accomplish. I began my nursing career, never looked back and I’m glad I did. I was a neonatal intensive care nurse, ran an inpatient substance abuse program, was a public health nurse, opened the first children’s psychiatric unit in Fresno County, developed the first QA program for social workers in Fresno County, deputy director for Children’s Mental Health in Fresno and statewide chief nurse executive for CDCR.

HLM: Do you have a favorite quote?
KR: Success is not final; failure is not fatal; it is courage to continue that counts.

HLM: What are you currently reading?
KR: Magazines. Christian Science Monitor Weekly, The Economist and Kiplinger. My favorite book is Shibumi, because I love espionage, love and powerful characters.

HLM: Favorite food or dessert?
KR: I love roasted root vegetables and cucumbers, tomatoes and green onion salad. My favorite ice cream is Baskin-Robbins® Gold Medal Ribbon ice cream.