Christmas is known as a season of giving, and in that vein local country star Carla Williams two years ago gave the public her infectiously fun yuletide anthem “Are You Ready for Christmas,” on BelleFire Records. Williams and her family also sponsor an annual charity party, inviting an intimate crowd to her home in Monterey Place for an exclusive Christmas party benefiting the Ronald McDonald House.
On Dec. 2, Williams partnered with Meat Boss, Grits & Grub, Bottles Up Mobile, Blue Rents and Coastal Field & Design to once again hold her “Christmas in the Country” charity event. Williams spoke with Lagniappe as she prepared for this exclusive holiday event.
STEPHEN CENTANNI: What’s your favorite thing about Christmas?
CARLA WILLIAMS: Oh goodness, I would have to say that my favorite thing at this particular point in life is my children. They are my number one. Christmas with them is just so special. They love it just as much as we do. Another cool thing about it is that they’re into this charity event too. They invite all of their friends. Just having them be excited about something like that, and giving back to people and helping people that are struggling in life or need some help is just a really neat thing to witness as a mom.
Centanni: What made you start doing this charity event?Wiliiams: Back in 2008, my little cousin Taylor Davis, who was a 5-year-old at the time, was diagnosed with leukemia and began the fight of his life. I’ve always been involved with charity, but it particularly hits home when it’s your family. I reached out to my family and aunt and uncle, and I asked, “How can we help?” My aunt had to quit her full-time job to take care of him. So we decided to put on a huge benefit concert back in 2009. We raised a lot of money. We partnered up with the city of Mobile and Mobile County and some of the commissioners. We had so many sponsors. People just really stepped up and helped in many ways. So, it all started when Taylor was diagnosed.
For the past three years, we’ve done it at our home as a regular family thing to do to reach out. Luckily, Taylor survived and is doing very well, but there are many that don’t. There are so many people who have to be away from home, especially at Christmastime. I think that’s what’s so special to us. We’re able to help these children and these families have a Christmas, when they probably wouldn’t because they’re not at home. With all the medical expenses, they really can’t afford it.
Centanni: What are these parties usually like?
Williams: Because of my musical background, we’ve had different bands every year. This year we decided to step it up a notch and get one of the most sought-after party bands, which is The Tip-Tops. If you’re from Mobile, you’re familiar with The Tip-Tops. So, we really wanted to draw a crowd.
When we do these events, our invitations go out and we insert a little thing that says to bring an unwrapped toy. I print out a list of all the household items that Ronald McDonald House has on a wishlist of certain things they really need on a day-to-day basis. It’s simple things like garbage bags and individually wrapped snacks that these families can grab as they’re coming and going from the hospital.
We have a money tree set up. Santa Claus is there for all the children. It’s just a time of fun and fellowship. We’ll have the executive director of Ronald McDonald House and a lot of their staff there. They spread the word while they’re there of what goes on at the Ronald McDonald House on a daily basis. It’s a big party, but it’s a big party for all the right reasons.
Centanni: What’s the best part of throwing these parties?
Williams: The best part for us as a family and the reason that we do it is to simply do anything we can to help the Ronald McDonald House. They have daily needs. Financially, they have needs. Christmastime comes along, and these families can’t go home. We provide toys and clothing and socks and hats and gloves and anything that these children could need or want on Christmas morning. The reason that we do what we do is to give these children and families as much joy and hope as we can, just throw our little bit of donation and time and support.
Centanni: Do you see this event getting bigger? Will it ever grow beyond your home?
Williams: Absolutely. We’ve tried to keep this event private, because it’s at our home. We reach out to family friends, clients, co-workers and people we go to school with. The first time that we had it, we had 150 people. We joked last year that we didn’t have that many people because of the SEC Championship. So we did it on a Friday this year and didn’t have that competition.
We want to make it as big as we can possibly make it. It’s our commitment to do this for Ronald McDonald House every year, whether it’s big or small. We would love to grow this thing into something huge to raise a lot of money and supply them with what they need on a daily basis.
Centanni: Let’s talk about your music and BellFire Records. What’s been going on in that part of your world?
Williams: My Christmas single came out in 2014. My producer and manager in Nashville said that it’s funny how a Christmas song works. On rotation in the music world, it takes a good three to five years for a Christmas song to really catch the eye and ear of all the right people. We just released it again, and we’re going to start pitching it on a commercial level. We would love to see this song on a commercial. It seems like everybody who has listened to it in the industry, across the country and into Scotland, thinks that it’s a song that should be on a Macy’s commercial. It’s just a happy and fun song.
It’s actually playing all across the world right now, which is very neat to hear myself in Scotland or somewhere like that. Another one of my singles (“Love Me Some You”) was released earlier this year, and we’re really going to push it over the next few months. I’ve started writing some new music, and we’ll be hitting the studio really soon.
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