Albany restaurant’s ‘cozy’ cooking helps pay for community swim lessons

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ALBANY – The smell of food wafts through Allie B’s Cozy Kitchen restaurant in Albany.

"My father was a fisherman, so I can cook any kind of fish," said Kizzy Williams.

Mac cheese, ribs, candied yams: to Williams, cooking is a form of love. Her cozy kitchen is a memory formed from her family’s kitchen growing up.

"When you would come to our home, our home was so cozy," said Williams. However, COVID-19 threw Allie B’s for a loop.

"When I think about COVID, it makes me emotional, you know, because I went through a lot," said Williams.

Between closures, managing food deliveries and pick-ups, Williams says she learned it’s okay to show fear.

"I was so afraid when COVID first started," she explained.

Williams decided to harness the fear, and make change. She helped get sponsored swimming lessons for people in her community – a resource that can be hard to come by for some.

Williams says 62 families are in the program.

"They don’t have the opportunity to come to a swimming pool…to learn how to swim," said Kim Heard-Stewart, whose granddaughter Serena is in the program.

She adds this is about more than swimming lessons. It’s about confidence and increasing access.

"To show that this is a future you can have something that’s positive and it’s possible for you, no matter what race you are, what family you come from, anything is possible if you put your mind to it," said Heard-Stewart.

Williams says a sense of community is important to her, all stemming from her cozy kitchen.