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Dr. Nathaniel J. Williams of HumanWorks: “Mindfulness”

In my capacity at the Chief Executive Officer of HumanWorks, we operate a cluster of nine corporations focused on human services: we provide group homes, foster care/life sharing, and support for individuals living independently. We also provide leisure and recreation excursions for individuals with disabilities who live with their families. We provide training and professional […]

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In my capacity at the Chief Executive Officer of HumanWorks, we operate a cluster of nine corporations focused on human services: we provide group homes, foster care/life sharing, and support for individuals living independently. We also provide leisure and recreation excursions for individuals with disabilities who live with their families. We provide training and professional development opportunities for companies that may be experiencing struggles within their company. HumanWorks employs over 200 people and has an operating budget of over 10 million dollars.


As part of my series about “individuals and organizations making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Nathaniel J. Williams, ED.D., MHS, MPA, MBA, PhD.

A social entrepreneur, founder, president and ceo of eight organizations serving persons with mental retardation, mental health challenges, and dependent children and youth. The organization employs 300+ employees, operating in several regions of Pennsylvania, based in Philadelphia.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

My life’s journey essentially began just days after my eleven siblings, and I became orphaned. From five years old until the age of 18, I was a ward of the State of New York’s foster care system. Eventually separated from my brothers and sisters, I rarely saw my siblings during childhood. I recall sitting on the steps of my cottage, feeling sad about a canceled visit. It was then that Sister Mary Patrick saw me, ask me what was wrong. I told her. And she asked me to wait for her. I saw Sister Mary Patrick go down to the basement of the convent and bring up a bicycle. I was so happy to receive this gift and rode off back to my cottage. When I arrived, my fellow foster brothers asked for a ride, and I gladly said, “yes.” As I watched them ride down the road, it was then I realized that I wanted to be the one in a position to give a bicycle and that if I weren’t careful, I would always be sitting on a step waiting for a handout.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?

As an experienced international motivational speaker and lecturer, I have been fortunate to have been placed in front of the U.S. Armed Forces in Kosovo, England, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal and Spain, and before members of the local chapter of the International Association of Administrative Professionals, where “Work/Home Balance” was the topic for discussion. I have addressed McNair Scholars as the keynote speaker at the Ronald E. McNair Post Baccalaureate Achievement Program at Elizabeth City State University, and have equally been fortunate to be invited to speak to elementary students with the children of the Tobyhanna Elementary Center.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

When I first came to the job 30 years ago, we visited one of the group homes, and the person with me forgot the keys. So I decided I would just go through the dining room window. My colleague was shocked that her supervisor would break into the building. I reminded her it wasn’t breaking and entering because we owned the building. This circumstance taught me that we must not be thwarted by the locked doors when faced with a challenge — we must join any way we can — we belong there.

Can you describe how you or your organization is making a significant social impact?

In my capacity at the Chief Executive Officer of HumanWorks, we operate a cluster of nine corporations focused on human services: we provide group homes, foster care/life sharing, and support for individuals living independently. We also provide leisure and recreation excursions for individuals with disabilities who live with their families. We provide training and professional development opportunities for companies that may be experiencing struggles within their company. HumanWorks employs over 200 people and has an operating budget of over 10 million dollars.

Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?

There is not just one individual story but in fact many lives that impacted by our services. ChildFirst Services, Inc. operates small group residences for children referred by Pennsylvania County Offices of Children and Youth. These children come to CFS for short periods of time while their family circumstances are readied for their return, or alternative settings are found. So the work is not only with the children, it extends to the whole family.

Spectrum Community Services, Inc. serves the needs of individuals with disabilities and the economically challenged with residential options in multiple counties in Eastern Pennsylvania. The engagement opportunities specialist help individuals meet their full potential. The family is also included in these services as they are involved with the daily living experiences of their family members.

Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?

The community/society/politicians can remember to triage the challenges they are experienced through the 4Ms to see which of them contribute to the circumstance. We often want to believe the challenge exists for a problem that is beyond understanding. We must remind ourselves that there is always a common denominator. I have found that the 4Ms — mapping, mental wellness, mediation, and mentorship are consistent denominators found in challenges and successes alike.

How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?

Anyone can demonstrate leadership. An appointed person can only conduct management. Leadership is the ability to inspire others to follow. We are all leaders — just at different times.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

Humor — don’t take things so seriously. Find a way to lighten each and every moment.

Humility — don’t take yourself so seriously. Find a way to be a servant to others.

Optimism — find the good in people, places, and things and celebrate them. Remember, all people, places, and things have a value that should always be cherished with an upbuilding attitude.

Mindfulness- think things through. Your initial reaction is just that — your first reaction. Allow yourself time and resources to think things through.

Empowerment — help out yourself and others. Build yourself and others up through fellowship and embracing the realization that we are on our own — but we are not alone — we are interdependent.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

The movement to embrace the 4Ms — The 4Ms Movement. The campaign would put forth the notion that we need all four simultaneously to be successful — mapping, mental wellness, mediation, and mentorship.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

As a child “I was very serious and business-like,” “I even wore a shirt and tie every day.”

“Unbeknownst to me, for nearly all my life, I had been standing at the foot of my mother’s casket, angry and frustrated.” One day while speaking about the death of a parent, to a colleague, this colleague wisely said to me, ‘Parents are with you for as long as they need to be. They give you the blueprint to be all you can be.’ “ At that very moment I realized that I was standing in my own way. That single statement helped me to reflect on my mother’s death and my time spent as an orphan in a different light, and helped me re-frame in my mind what had happened and how I could learn from it.” Learning in the form of personal maturity and scholarship ensued like a floodgate. “I finally realized that if you want something different, you gotta do something different,” a mantra that would define my aspirations, enthusiasm for life, and subsequent success in helping others to “break past their past” just as he had.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

Sister Joseph Mary Mahoney, O.P., was the Executive Director of Saint Dominic’s Home when I was a kid. When I last saw her, I was being discharged for stealing an agency vehicle. I hope she would be proud of what I have done with my life since. Now I have kids that steal my agency cars.

How can we follow you on social media?

LinkedIn: Nathaniel J. Williams

Twitter: @drnatjwilliams

YouTube: natjwilliams

Instagram: drnatwilliams

Facebook: drnatjwilliams

This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!

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