Building Better Together: Marvin Williams Center, a Community Center Leading the Way

Building Better Together: Marvin Williams Center, a Community Center Leading the Way Main Photo

8 Apr 2024

Featured Content, BIPOC, Diversity

Providing a "gathering space";  a beacon of hope for our community where individuals can find services, support, and a sense of belonging.

Community leaders play a crucial role in shaping the future of their neighborhoods. They are the visionaries, the bridge builders, and the driving force behind positive change. Their dedication inspires others, creates opportunities, and fosters a sense of unity within the community.

Community leadership is pivotal in fostering societal cohesion, resilience, and progress. Whether organizing events, advocating for social justice, or spearheading initiatives for positive change, influential community leaders catalyze collective action. Their ability to inspire, empower, and unite others cultivates a sense of belonging and shared responsibility within the community. 

The Marvin Williams Center - A Shining Example

Bremerton's  Marvin Williams Center (MWC) is a testament to a community leader's impact. Founded by Bishop Larry Robertson with the vision of creating a space where "the community comes and gathers, and they're made better as a result of it," the MWC has become a vital resource for Kitsap residents, particularly the BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) community.

Continuing the Legacy: Dr. Lillian Lockett Robertson's Leadership

It fulfilled a dream for Robertson when the $7.2 million community center — named for NBA star and Bremerton native Marvin Williams – opened on the corner of Eighth Street and Park Avenue in 2018. Following Bishop Robertson's passing, Dr. Lillian Lockett Robertson stepped into the role of Executive Director, carrying forward his legacy with unwavering determination. As a respected medical doctor, Dr. Robertson brings a unique perspective to the MWC, particularly in health-related programming. Her commitment to addressing the holistic needs of the community reflects the center's ethos of empowerment and holistic well-being.



"As Executive Director of the Marvin Williams Center, I am honored to carry forward Bishop Larry Robertson's legacy and his vision of community empowerment. We understand the importance of the Marvin Williams Recreation Center in providing a "gathering space";  a beacon of hope for our community where individuals can find services, support, and a sense of belonging.  Our greatest desire is to foster a sense of inclusivity, resilience and progress, especially among the historically disadvantaged community members that we serve.  Despite the challenges of maintaining a sustainable non-profit organization, we remain dedicated to finding solutions that meet the needs of our community and ensure long-term viability and meaningful engagement.  Together, with the support of our partners and the dedication of our team, we will continue to chart a path forward that uplifts and empowers all those we serve." 

Lillian Lockett Robertson, MD

Image showing  Bishop Larry Robertson and Dr. Lillian Lockett Robertson's ribbon cutting ceremony.
Dr. Lillian Lockett Robertson and Bishop Lawrence Robertson at ribbon cutting ceremony in April 2018 .


A Beacon of Opportunity

Opened in 2018, the MWC offers a welcoming space for people of all ages. The center provides diverse programs designed to empower and enrich lives, from toddler gym and youth mentoring to academic tutoring and cooking classes.  “It demonstrates what can result when someone has a vision, a passion, a plan and can pull people together to get things done,” said Cary Bozeman, former Bremerton mayor who came to believe in Robertson’s vision more than a decade ago.

A Partnership for Progress

Kitsap Economic Development Alliance (KEDA) recognizes the MWC's vital role in the community. Their partnership has seen the MWC host two successful BIPOC Business Forums in 2023, which drew over 225 registrations. Hosting the events at MWC in Bremerton reflected KEDA’s commitment to equity, diversity, and inclusion and provided a platform for fostering authentic relationships while providing resources and relevant expertise and a forum for meaningful discussions. 

More Than Just a Center: A Community Hub

The MWC goes beyond programs. It offers a state-of-the-art facility perfect for hosting events of all sizes. Whether it's a wedding reception, a trade show, or a birthday party, the MWC provides a versatile space to celebrate life's milestones. The MWC boasts various features, including a light-filled open lobby, meeting rooms, a commercial kitchen, a computer lab, a full gymnasium, and locker rooms. This ensures the center caters to a wide range of needs and activities.

The Way Ahead: Dr. Lillian Robertson

Dr. Lillian Robertson outlines a strategic vision for the way forward for the Marvin Williams Center (MWC). She acknowledges the center's financial challenges, relying on galas, grants, and fundraising opportunities to sustain its operations. Despite reducing staff due to programming adjustments, Dr. Robertson emphasizes the importance of leveraging technology and engaging younger talent to navigate virtual spaces and social media platforms effectively. Recognizing the evolving landscape, particularly in marketing and outreach, the MWC has revamped its website better to communicate its mission and vision to the community. Dr. Robertson underscores the need for adaptability and expansion as programs grow, indicating a commitment to resilience and innovation in advancing the MWC's impact and reach. Through strategic partnerships, technological integration, and a focus on storytelling, Dr. Robertson charts a course for the MWC that is both sustainable and responsive to the changing needs of the community it serves.

The Marvin Williams Center exemplifies the transformative power of community leadership. The MWC is vital in building a stronger, more vibrant Kitsap for all by providing a space for connection, learning, and growth. A lot is going on here every day. Contact or 360-377-6000 for more information.