Leonard Williams dedicated his life to charitable causes
For decades, Leonard Williams consistently supported the YMCA of Central Florida in its efforts to create a safe place in underserved communities where the Y could teach children to swim and be safe around the water, mentor teens, provide a safe place for kids and families to connect, and encourage seniors to stay active and social.
A Long History with the YMCA
Although Leonard grew up in Kannapolis, North Carolina, he was a well-known leader in our Central Florida community and beyond. During his childhood, he used to visit the YMCA every day where he learned the value of a hard day’s work and a sense of community. As he was rising through the ranks at his sales job, Leonard decided to move his family to Orlando in 1967.
In 1994, three years after he officially retired, Mr. Williams became president of Wayne M. Densch Charities. He continued to expand the charity over the next few decades and went on to form the Marjorie and Leonard Williams Family Foundation in 2010. Inspired by the memories he made and his desire to help further the Y’s mission, the Leonard Williams Family Foundation has generously gifted our YMCA of Central Florida Association more than $3 million throughout the years.
His direct involvement with the YMCA of Central Florida began after visiting a family center in Pine Hills where Jim Ferber, CEO of YMCA of Central Florida at that time, described the necessary building renovations. Williams made his first major gift to the Y, and the facility was renamed the Wayne Densch YMCA. At the time, it was the largest capital gift the Y had ever received. Most recently, Mr. Williams helped support the development of an entirely new Y facility in the Packing District. The Leonard and Marjorie Williams Family YMCA, commemorating Leonard and his wife Marjorie—who passed in 2015—is set to open in 2022. The J. Douglas Williams YMCA in Lake Mary is also named in honor of the late son of Leonard and Marjorie, who passed during his childhood years due to epilepsy complications. We’re grateful for his support throughout the years, and know he’s resting peacefully with his wife and son.
2011 Champion of Youth Award Winner
The YMCA of Central Florida honored Leonard Williams, Sr. as the 2011 Dr. P. Phillips Champion of Youth Award recipient for his commitment to kids, families, and our community at its annual Festival of Trees Celebration. The award is presented to an individual or organization that demonstrates an unyielding commitment to improving the lives of children in Central Florida.
“It’s a great story. From a young boy growing up in a small Y in a North Carolina mill town to achieve the kind of success he has, and to have the character of wanting to give back and truly make a difference. He has modeled throughout his entire life, and has embodied the idea, of giving back. It’s not just to the Y. It’s to lots of other organizations. His journey is pretty incredible.”
— Dan Wilcox, President & CEO, YMCA of Central Florida (2015–2021)
Photos courtesy of (in order): John Thompson, Williams Family, Williams Family