Doris Williams has seen a lot in her 96 years. An Oakland native, Doris saw the building of the Bay Bridge, and an evolving Bay Area that has seen a massive rise in everything from population to housing prices. Doris served our country in the Navy during World War II. “I wanted to help my country win the war,” she says. Though women were not allowed on ships at time, Doris served in the office of the Alameda Naval Air Station, “handing out chits to sailors when they wanted to go into town.”
Doris thinks of her time in the Navy as a huge boost in her personal growth, a shot of confidence. It’s a self-reliance that has stayed with her ever since, and she carried it with her when she purchased her Fremont home nearly 40 years ago. “She’s always been very independent all of her life,” says her niece, Lisa. It has been difficult for Lisa to watch Doris’s health rob her of that independence, with neuropathy paining her legs and hampering her mobility. “This has been horrible for her, the worst. I’ve slowly watched her lose all these things, and it’s been hard to watch.”
It’s why finding Habitat’s Home Preservation Program has made a major impact. Through the program, Doris had a swamp cooler and a wheelchair lift installed. It means keeping comfortable during hot Fremont summers, and reclaiming a measure of independence. “Lisa practically had to carry me up and down the steps,” Doris says. “I don’t know how we did it, but we had to manage. It was an awful, awful project. Now, if I need to go somewhere today, I don’t have to dread it.”
The repairs also mean more years of safety and comfort in a home and community that Doris loves. “I really love my little house,” she says. “I’ve enjoyed living here all these years. I’ve just been happy here.” Her home has seen many memories, from her late mother’s 100th birthday party, to the day Lisa brought her grandson over, straight from the hospital – “I took one look at that baby, and I fell hopelessly, madly in love,” Doris remembers. Their family is close-knit and nearly all of them call the Bay Area home. Until recently, you could usually find Doris camping with family, or at one of the local dance halls, or keeping time with the Snappy Tappers, a group of senior tap dancers. Now, she enjoys quieter hobbies, like crosswords and jigsaw puzzles in the comfort of her easy chair, and the company of family visiting her at home.
The repairs made by the Home Preservation Program have returned the sense of well-being and self-sufficiency that Doris has always held dear. “It’s been wonderful,” Doris says. “I am just so very grateful. You people really do so much good. It’s a wonderful organization.”