Grant Williams' role in the Parks and Recreation Department in his hometown of Halstead has gradually evolved over the years.
Initially, Williams volunteered his time as a board member before taking on the role of Parks and Rec Director nearly 20 years ago. Ever since, he's handled any task having to do with city parks (often getting a "huge assist" from the city of Halstead maintenance department), helped organize the numerous youth sports leagues offered through the department, acted as city liaison to the tree board — a seasonal role — and done any number of other jobs that may be asked of him, like shoveling snow around the parks following the recent winter weather.
"Other duties as assigned is also part of my job description," Williams said. "Depending on the time of year, it can be a bunch of different things."
As a lifelong resident of Halstead and being involved in "everything athletic" growing up, working for the Parks and Rec Department was a natural fit for Williams. Even before his own playing career at Halstead High School started, he remembers traveling with his parents for numerous prep sporting events. That foundation — paired with his own experiences playing in high school — led him to get involved with local athletics, something he started while at HHS as a referee for youth league games. In fact, officiating is still a way Williams serves his community to this day.
"Saturday mornings, I'm still on site unless I have a child playing somewhere else," Williams said. "That is still a great enjoyment, reffing, especially the younger third and fourth-grade (teams) where it's intro to basketball. Refereeing, it's very rewarding."
Having a strong history in Halstead, along with his upbringing, Williams was also led to help out Halstead High School as the announcer for its home basketball games — recently wrapping up his 24th season with the Dragons.
Given that his father, Larry, used to help in the same role, getting involved in that capacity was a pretty easy sell for Williams.
"That program gave me so much growing up here, both as a player and a fan and everything else, that it was easy to say yes to," Williams said. "There's always somebody doing these things and I guess it was just my turn."
Other community efforts Williams has gotten involved in over the years include helping with the kids' parade at the Halloween Howl event, assisting with the community Santa Claus Day (where children can eat breakfast with Santa) or continuing that commitment to local athletics by volunteering at events hosted by HHS — like serving as a timer for track or cross country meets.
Admittedly, given his deeply ingrained investment in sports, Williams said sometimes it is hard to tell where his work with the Parks and Rec Department ends and his voluntary community service begins.
"My personal volunteering and job position kind of mold into one in the same, so I never really know if it's part of the job or part of the voluntary effort," Williams said. "It all kind of blurs together."
Through the years, Williams said he has enjoyed having that role fostering participation in youth sports, as well as getting an opportunity he never expected, helping with the project to build a new community pool 10 years ago. All of his involvement circles back to community, though, as he noted he is hopeful his work will help build a strong bond between young athletes and their hometown to help perpetuate a cycle of giving back.
Williams is quick to point out that he is not alone in his service to the community. Both businesses — like the school — and individuals are more than willing to lend a helping hand. Sports was his gateway to that world and he is hoping to see that tradition continue.
"We have a great fundamental base of people that are always willing to help because I'm sure they feel the same way I do; somebody did it for them. It's our chance to give back to the youth, an adult league or anything like that. People are willing to hop in and help with facilities or project days," Williams said. "We all should have an interest in where we live. There are reasons we live there and it's a great way to make where we live even better."