When an inner-city youth centre hit by serious cash flow problems faced a bleak future, a cheque for $20,000 arrived mysteriously Ii the mail.
The money came from HIH founder and former chief executive Ray Williams who had read of the centre’s plight in the newspapers.
Mr Williams act of generosity five years ago earned him a legion of fans among the local youth in Sydney’s tough inner western suburbs.
And yesterday in the besieged former HIH chief’s hour of need the centre’s manager—Rev David Smith, of Holy Trinity Anglican Church at Duiwich Hill returned the favour.
“I had no idea at the time who he was. He said it looked like we needed some help.” Mr Smith said.
“Then he came out to one of our kickboxing tournaments and we got him to present the trophies. But he never liked the limelight, he bordered on being extraordinarily shy.”
Mr Williams helped out several more times over the next two years, helping to arrange children’s camps and stumping up further donations.
But, in an ironic twist, the youth centre again faces closure, this time because it holds public liability insurance with the failed HIH group and is fighting a claim in the courts.
“We face bankruptcy but for me that does not detract from the stature of the man,”
Mr Smith said, “I know very little about financial matters and nothing about insurance, but Ray Williams is one of the most kindly, humble and generous men I have met.
“The only reason we are operating today is because a man I had never met or even heard of sent us some cheques in the post.
Mr Williams invited Mr Smith and his wife to his palatial 42nd floor office at 50 Bridge St and asked if there was anything else he could do.
“I asked him why he was so generous. He said he had started out with nothing and had been very fortunate, he believed in sharing his good fortune,” Mr Smith said.
During the 30 years he was at the helm of HIH, Ray Williams quietly contributed many thousands of dollars to charities.
He has a major involvement in the Create Foundation which assists children in care, and was awarded the Australian Medal.