Right after World War II, Jane and Harry Willson founded Sunnyland Farms in Albany. The 1,700-acre farm grew to be one of the largest mail order pecan businesses in the nation.
Alex Willson, who is their grandson and now serves as Chief Operating Officer of the company run by his father Larry, says Sunnyland devotes eight months a year — when it’s not harvest season — to helping children in its South Georgia community.
In particular, employees can often be found on Thursday or Friday afternoons reading to children at Martin Luther King Elementary – something greatly needed as less than ten percent of the pupils are proficient in English, math and social studies, according to the website Great Schools.
In addition, giving back to students at MLK Elementary works well for the employees at Sunnyland Farms. “I think it gives them a lot of pride in where they work knowing they are helping others and our community,” Alex said. “It’s definitely a morale booster.”
“We at Sunnyland believe in helping kids rise to their potential,” said Alex Willson. “We have worked on encouraging them to show up for important standardized tests and perform well by encouraging them with both praise and fun incentives like pizza parties which gets kids excited about learning.”
“We try to show them that an education – and learning basic skills such as reading and writing – are essential to a successful future,” Alex said. “They definitely appreciate the time we spend with them showing how education can make a positive impact in their lives.”