East St. Louis business owner gives back to community that gave him his start

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EAST ST. LOUIS, Ill. - James Williams is an East St. Louis native and owner of over 20 McDonald’s restaurants within the St. Louis area. This morning he visited his East St. Louis location on North 24th Street to honor McDonald’s commitment to the community by sharing his story and how education, hard work, and determination are helping him create a big impact in his small hometown.

“When you look around East St. Louis, one of the most noticeable things is that you see buildings abandoned and stuff,” said Patrick Jenkins, a McDonald’s employee. “It just makes me so proud that a black man that grew up here didn’t abandon us.”

Local residents are proudly supporting Williams and his McDonald’s restaurant. In an area where many businesses and people have left, he stayed and is actively seeking ways to improve his community. He has teamed up with former track star and Olympic gold medalist, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, to help provide a safe environment for the city’s youth to learn and develop.

Williams will also be launching Archways to Opportunity. This program strives to meet young people where they are at in their life and provide services that will support academic completion on all levels.

“It makes me feel proud to be a part of the regeneration of the city. This is an amazing city, with amazing people, and to be a part of this is so very special. Our future is bright,” said James Williams, McDonald’s owner.

Other predominant community leaders like Reverend Derienzia Johnson of Greater New Hope Missionary Church say Williams brings a renewed sense of hope to the people living there.

“He could have went anywhere else, but he came back to the community that helped produce him, that gave him those tools, and that’s very important,” said Reverend Johnson. “Especially in a town like East St. Louis, because young people need to see that success can come from this community.”

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