Carmella “BJ” Williams brings artistry and heart to Homeland’s kitchen!
Carmella “BJ” Williams was standing by the flea market booth at Homeland’s annual summer fair when a resident’s son approached and said, “I just want to thank you for everything that you do.”
It meant the world to her.
“It came out of nowhere,” she said. “He just came up and hugged me.”
During Homeland’s 150th anniversary year, Williams celebrates a milestone of her own. October 22, 2017 is her 25th anniversary of working at Homeland, rising from kitchen staff to assistant director of nutritional services.
Williams was 20 years old, working at a Harrisburg Burger King when she applied for a part-time position in Homeland’s dietary department. She was nervous, but she took advantage of every opportunity to be trained and work her way up to supervisor.
From helping to unload the food delivery trucks to once spending months with a coworker preparing meals on two standard home stoves during Homeland’s kitchen renovation, Williams is committed to getting the job done right.
Training as a prep cook early in her career meant making desserts, even though baking took her out of her comfort zone. Her Homeland supervisors taught her not to give up, and she shares that lesson with trainees today.
“You make a mistake, you try it over,” she said. “That’s the only way you’re going to learn from your mistakes.”
When she first joined Homeland, Williams hadn’t completed high school. Then, at her sister’s GED graduation ceremony, her sister said, “You helped me out. Now it’s time for you to get yours.”
Williams earned a diploma through a Cumberland Valley High School adult education program. She even went to the prom, with her aunt’s boyfriend as her date.
At graduation, friends and family were there, and so was a Homeland resident and her family. Williams remains grateful to the many Homeland residents who helped her earn that diploma. They helped with math, science, and history.
At home, Williams and her wife of three years enjoy entertaining friends. Williams does the cooking, but she has learned the differences between cooking at home and cooking for Homeland residents. At Homeland, attention to the dietary needs of residents comes first, followed closely by their enjoyment of every meal.
“This is their home,” she said. “This is their food. We’re going to make sure these residents get what they order.”
She knows that any outside pressures she brings to the job will dissipate as soon as she talks with residents and hears their stories. She loves putting smiles on their faces, and they are “very appreciative” for their meals every day.
“You’re going to hear the good, the bad, and the ugly,” she said, “but most of the time, it’s the good, and that’s what makes my day.”