Deb Williams: Serving Next Door since 1998

Next Door not only offered Deb Williams a long-time career that she loves – but a pathway to get there as well.

Back in 1996, Deb lived just a few blocks from Next Door’s 29th Street campus and discovered the organization’s adult education program from her sister who volunteered at Next Door.

Deb hadn’t been to school in 17 years and decided, at age 34, it was time to go back and get her high school diploma.

She prepared for the GED at Next Door – motivated in large part by volunteer tutors she grew close with, like Ms. Camilla.

“She was awesome,” Deb said. “It was just like she had more time to sit with the person and help them through what they were dealing with. I’ve never forgotten her.”

In just eight months, Deb earned her GED and stayed close to Next Door through volunteering and enrolling her youngest son in the early childhood programming.

In 1998, Deb started working for Next Door full-time. She served as a receptionist for a year covering the 30th Street entrance to the building, which no longer exists today.

Her next move came when the agency’s Early Childhood Director at the time selected Deb to become her Administrative Assistant. It’s a role she continues to thrive in today.

“That’s pretty much all I have ever done here. That’s what I enjoy doing,” Deb said.

In the role today, Deb gets a chance to support all of Next Door’s early childhood programming at Next Door’s 29th Street campus – from the infant and toddler rooms to the K4 and K5 Charter School with Milwaukee Public Schools.

Her duties include entering/monitoring daily student attendance, maintaining child immunization records and generating monthly school calendars. You’ll also find Deb greeting families every morning as they drop off their children, helping out teachers in the classroom and reading with the children.

“I think being able to help everyone within the program is the drive for me – the kids, the parents and the staff,” Deb said.

Over her two decades of service to Next Door, Deb has seen the organization grow by leaps and bounds and thousands of children passing through.

She feels there’s one thing that hasn’t changed since she first entered Next Door as an adult education student – the warm embrace visitors feel walking inside.

“I hear a lot of people come in and say how nice it is here,” Deb said. “They used to say – and I still think it is to some level today – that Next Door is the best kept secret.”

Ms. Deb reads “Let’s Count from 1 to 10” with Haiden.