Longtime News Anchor Continues to Support Casa


Her face is one of the most recognizable in the Southern California news market. Her reporting for NBC4 has spanned decades and garnered multiple industry honors. But when it comes to anchor Colleen Williams, some of her best work doesn’t take place in front of a camera or in a studio. Since 1995, the longtime Pasadena resident has supported Casa de las Amigas by hosting a yearly golf tournament to raise funds for the residential recovery center that houses women who are overcoming addiction.
Last month, the Colleen Williams 21st annual Charity Golf Tournament was held at the San Gabriel Country Club and raised more than $100,000 for Casa.
“Anything that has to do with women or children and the need, I get involved,” Williams said. “That’s what Casa did. It really did speak to me on that level.”
Each year, the Pasadena nonprofit serves upward of 300 women through abstinence-based treatment programs that focus on the physical, mental and spiritual growth of its residents. Williams’ connection to Casa stems from her husband, Jon Dudley, a former Air Force officer whom she met while covering the Persian Gulf War. When the couple returned from the frontlines, Dudley was still waging a battle with alcoholism.
“I started going to a meeting that ended up at the Casa,” Dudley said. “Even to this day, I can go to the meetings and listen to the girls’ firsthand stories of how much the Casa has impacted them and changed their lives. Now, it’s approaching three decades of all these stories. I just have a close affinity for the Casa.”
Dudley eventually joined Casa’s board and took the reins of the golf tournament with Williams, who had already spent the previous decade making a name for herself as a journalist at NBC4. She received an Emmy and Golden Mike award for her coverage of the Los Angeles riots. Williams also gained immense visibility by anchoring a daily report of the O.J. Simpson murder trial for NBC4 and MSNBC.
“I really think having my wife’s name attached to [the golf tournament] brought a bigger panache to it,” said Dudley. “Bigger donors were willing to get involved and support the Casa.”
The golf tournament is an all-day affair that typically begins with registration and a presentation of silent auction items in the morning, followed by lunch and the helicopter ball drop. This popular event involves selling golf balls that are labeled with a number denoting their buyer. All of the purchased balls are then carried above the course by helicopter and dropped onto the green below. The ball nearest to the hole wins. After the course is cleared, golfers play until the early evening. The program concludes with hors d’oeuvres, a silent auction, dinner, an award ceremony emceed by Williams and a live auction.
“Jon and I have managed to get friends and family involved. And by family, I really mean the station,” said Williams, who this summer is celebrating her 30th year on the job. “NBC4 has really stepped up from the get-go and gotten involved and supported my involvement in this. Every year, I seem to draw new faces from the station.”
Other faces that have had a profound impact on Williams include those whom she didn’t immediately recognize. During a visit to Casa, a young woman who appeared to be a resident approached Williams and asked the anchor if she remembered her.
“I looked at her — and I’ll be honest with you — I was at a loss for words,” recalled Williams. “She said, ‘I used to work with you, and Casa saved my life.’ If I ever had any thoughts of quitting, they went away immediately.”
Williams experienced a similar episode with a friend’s daughter who had been through the program.
“Two years later, I saw her and again I did not recognize her,” Williams admitted. “She’d gotten her life together. She just looked healthy, which, believe it or not, was such a change.”
These transformations form the crux of Casa’s mission; a roadmap for hope and healing that began in 1967 with a little house and a small garage. Today, Leah Rodemich leads those efforts as executive director of a multi-building community, one that appreciates the assistance that Williams and Dudley have provided throughout the years.
“When she and husband support things, they bring their whole community with them,” said Rodemich. “It’s not just them. They spread the message, and because of their involvement in the community, the community gets involved. We’re extremely grateful.”
Williams, meanwhile, shares equal gratitude for the work of Casa in a region that she has come to know very well during the past three decades.
“There are not many of these homes around. There just aren’t,” Williams said. “So we’re lucky to have one of them in Pasadena that really does serve such a wide area.”
“The station recognizes the value of community and that we’re all part of where we live. It’s so refreshing and so encouraging. It really almost encourages us to do more if that’s at all possible.”