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Businessman gives back

LeOtis Williams does so much, so humbly, that much of the community stands in awe of him.

“He is such a huge supporter of the community,” says Ashley Greene, development director for the Suffolk chapter of the American Red Cross. “His efforts are truly amazing.”

This November will mark the seventh year Williams has given out free turkeys on the Saturday before Thanksgiving to neighbors in need. He started with 175 turkeys — this year, his goal is 1,500.

“That’s where I get my enjoyment,” Williams says. “It’s all about giving back.”

Last November, Williams not only handed out free turkeys, but also distributed sweet potatoes, cabbage, collards and other trimmings for the holiday meal. He also set up health screenings in his lawn service warehouse on Pinner Street, and even grilled hot dogs for people waiting in line.

His community service doesn’t end there. Last year, he paid for 175 child and adult memberships to the East Suffolk Recreation Center for members of the community. In January this year, he gave $5,000 to the American Red Cross for Haiti earthquake relief — money that had originally been budgeted for a new riding lawnmower for his lawn service.

The 45-year-old businessman owns rental and investment companies, in addition to the lawn service. Even though the recession has been hard on most small businesses, Williams plans to continue helping, he says.

“I have some hard times, but through it all I want to continue the mission of helping those less fortunate,” he says.

Though Williams’ humility makes him reluctant to talk about his generosity, others have no problem honoring him. In January, Williams received the “I Have a Dream Award” at Suffolk’s annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. celebration.

“That is such an honor,” Williams said. “I was just shocked, and so full of joy. Later on that night, I even cried.”

Even Suffolk’s mayor says she is humbled in his presence.

“It’s a privilege for me to even be around him,” Mayor Linda T. Johnson said. “He’s always looking for ways to give back.”

Williams makes just as much of a difference in his family as he does in the community, says daughter Ashley Cross, 27. With three children and nine grandchildren, Williams somehow manages to keep them all straight.

“He’s great,” Cross said. “He’s good with helping people and reaching out to the community.”

Williams hopes to continue helping the community as long as possible, he says.

“I’m going to do as much as I can do in regards to helping other people,” Williams says. “I just thank God that I’m in a position to be able to help those who are less fortunate.”