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Matching needs and resources



Jane Williams photo by Sam O’Keefe

In every community, people need help. Fortunately, a corresponding group typically exists with the desire and resources to provide that assistance. But what Jane Williams, BSW ’76, MSW ’77, found surprising was how out of sync the two sides of this equation often are.

“There is a constant need for relational support and coordination,” she says. “We try to match the needs of the community with the times, talents and resources in the most effective way.”

Communities’ needs change as the years go by. In 2005, Williams left her 20-year career as a social worker in health care to help set up shelter and a furniture bank for refugees from Hurricane Katrina. Three years later, when she started Love Columbia, community residents needed help finding work and developing job skills in the wake of the Great Recession. By 2015, it was easier to find a job in CoMo than it was to find affordable housing, so Williams and company shifted their focus to transitional housing. And when COVID-19 hit in 2020, Columbians needed fast relief in all these areas.

For now, Williams’ biggest challenge is demand outpacing the organization’s ability to respond. “But I feel like the model is working, and our hope is to keep growing it,” she says.

“The skills I learned at Mizzou, along with the connections with faculty and students, have turned out to be exactly what we’ve needed.”