Longtime West Side community organizer Deborah Williams-Thurmond rose one morning several years ago with an urge to show her appreciation for all of the women who helped cultivate her.
“I woke up one morning thinking I would like to honor all of my mentors and godmothers — everybody who poured into me,” she said. “I wanted to bring them into one room and give them honor and accolades.”
The result was the first annual Women of Wisdom and Inspiration awards that Williams-Thurmond hosted four years ago at the Columbus Park Refectory in Austin.
“Then, I missed a few women, so I had to do a second year,” Williams-Thurmond said. “There’s no method. I just look at the women who do a lot in the community and who don’t get a lot of accolades. They’re people who I have an affinity for, for some reason.”
Williams-Thurmond is in a position to know a thing or two about people on the West Side and beyond. She’s established herself as a seemingly ubiquitous volunteer, organizer, campaigner, activist and businesswoman in Chicago for years, having worked with an array of community leaders – from politicians to pastors.
Four years after her first awards dinner, Williams-Thurmond — an accountant and owner of DWProvision Consulting Services, a firm that helps nonprofits and churches with tax and other business-related issues — will have honored 100 women after she hosts her fourth annual event on Saturday, April 23.
She’ll honor roughly three dozen women during Saturday’s ceremony, which will take place from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m., at the JLM Abundant Life Center, 2624 W. Jackson Blvd. in Chicago. Williams-Thurmond said she’s outgrown the Refectory.
Among this year’s honorees are Barbara Richardson, a senior attorney for Legal Aid Chicago. Richardson, who died in December, will be honored posthumously.
“She worked there for 30 years,” Williams-Thurmond said. “She was an attorney who never went into private practice and she helped thousands of women with their light and gas issues. She represented them before utility boards and things like that.”
A portion of the event proceeds will benefit Austin Youth Travel Adventures and the Project Exploration STEM Program.