Humanitarian ‘Best of …’ award goes to Milford’s Gary Williams Nervik and Knowles earn police and firefighter awards

Gary Williams was recently named the area’s “humanitarian” in The Cabinet’s “Best of Souhegan” contest.

But Williams, who is pastor of Milford’s Burns Hill Christian Fellowship church, talks as if members of his congregation and the local fire, police and EMTs should have the award instead.

During an interview last week in the old Tallarico dealership building on Elm Street, which houses the church, as well as Gurney’s Automotive Repair, he said his church members are unusually compassionate.

After living all over the world and ministering to hundreds of churches, he said, “I have never known any so loving.

“They see a need and they fill it,” he said, usually before Williams even finds out about it, and they don’t confine their charity works to fellow church members.

For example, there was a widow whose roof was leaking, he said. One man organized a work crew and “they just showed up” and repaired the roof.

Born and raised in Nashua, Williams, who is 45, has been on Christian missions to Africa, the Dominican Republic, Greece and all over the United States.

He has been married to Stephanie, “an amazing lady,” he calls her, for 22 years and they have nine children who range from age 3 to 21.

“Best of Souhegan” is based on reader nominations and the winners – there were more than 120 in a wide variety of categories – will be honored on Tuesday, Sept. 30 at La Belle Winery in Amherst.

Along with the humanitarian award, there are firefighter and police humanitarian awards that go to Milford Police Capt. Chris Nervik and Scott Knowles of the Brookline Fire Department.

For Williams, the award came as a bit of a shock, and he said he almost deleted the email from the Chamber of Commerce.

He became the chaplain for local emergency departments after the Cates home invasion tragedy in 2009 at the request of then-Police Chief Fred Douglas. Within a week the fire and ambulance departments also asked him.

But he found emergency departments are tight-knit fellowships and hard for outsiders to break into.

So Williams became a firefighter.

“I absolutely fell in love with the fire service,” he said, and is glad to be on hand when members need support and advice.

“Being on the inside,” he said, “I can recognize the stress … that comes from seeing things on a daily basis that people shouldn’t have to see.”

He can also recognize how the work affects marriages, calling emergency service “a very unique environment with unique stresses.

He calls Milford’s police, EMTs and firefighters “the best of the best, the greatest group of people you will every work with.”

But emergency workers can be a challenge to help because most have “Type A” personalities, he said, and will say they are fine when they are really not.

“Don’t tell me you are all right. I know you’re not,” he has to say to them.

One part of his role as chaplain that Williams always wishes he didn’t have to do is visiting the home of someone who has died. On the other hand, it is extremely rewarding, he said, to “give a glimmer of hope, of comfort.” That is “an opportunity I would never have had without the leaders in the departments I work for. As hard as it is, I wouldn’t change a thing. I love this town.”

Where does his compassion come from? From the Lord, he says. “Jesus came as a servant, and he is the example I follow.

“That’s why an award is hard for me to swallow,” he said. “I don’t do it for recognition. My life is just a stepping stone for another generation – to help it prosper … that is the reason I get up in the morning.”

About seven years ago, Williams founded Royal Rangers, for children in kindergarten through 12th grade, basically a Christian scouting group.

He also visits the state prison at least once a month. A few years ago he started a home tool repair business as a way to teach life skills to the many people in the community who struggle with alcohol and drug addictions.

“It not only gives them a job, it gives me one-on-one time to be an influence on their lives,” he said.

Milford Fire Chief Jack Kelly called Williams “a great firefighter” who is always willing to help in any situation.

“He really is a special guy,” the chief said.

Kathy Cleveland can be reached at 673-3100, ext. 304, or kcleveland@