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Neighbors rise up to support dog walker after fire guts home; fundraiser passes $110K

A plywood wall covered with various handwritten notes of support taped on. A large central sign reads, "We LOVE you WILLIAMS'."
Neighbors post words of support and kindness on the boarded up exterior of dog walker Terry Williams’ home in Alamo Square on Wednesday. | Source: George Kelly/The Standard

In a show of community solidarity, neighbors have plastered messages of love and support outside the boarded-up Alamo Square home of a longtime San Francisco dog walker who has recently been targeted by racist threats.

On Wednesday, brightly colored notes were blossoming against plywood sheets on the Grove Street residence of Terry Williams, who, along with his 81- and 79-year-old parents, was displaced by a fire that broke out Tuesday. Next to the burned-out residence, a plastic container held sheets of paper, markers and a roll of tape. A pink sign above the bin instructed passers-by to “write a love note to the Williams” family.

Neighbors complied: “Fill the neighborhood with love not hate”; “We love you and stand with you. Here if you need anything at all!” one Hayes Street family wrote.

“Love U Terry and family. It ain’t over,” another person wrote, while another said, “Love you, Terry. Your family & pups deserve to feel safe, loved & supported.”

A pink sign on wood reads "Write a love note to the Williams" with an arrow pointing to a bin below, containing markers, tape, and various colored paper.
On Tuesday, a one-alarm fire broke out at Williams’ home just weeks after he received two racist packages at his front door. | Source: George Kelly/The Standard

In the wake of the fire, which sent his elderly parents to the hospital and injured two of his three Rottweiler dogs, Williams took a small measure of joy in his neighborhood’s support.

“I’ve seen them now. I just came outside. It feels good,” he said. “A lot of them are neighbors. I recognize them, friends, some from the park, even a few kids from the school.”

The outpouring was uplifting at an otherwise devastating time for his family. He says they lost priceless heirlooms and mementos stretching back over a century in the blaze.

A San Francisco Fire Department investigation is ongoing, but Lt. Mariano Elias told The Standard that preliminary information suggests the fire began on the building’s second floor and extended into the third floor. The family lived on both floors.

Surveillance footage seen by The Standard from a nearby building shows smoke appearing at 11:26 a.m.; by 11:33 a.m., the first flames were visible.

Since the first racist package arrived at Williams’ doorstep on April 26, neighbors, clients and community members have rallied around the 49-year-old dog walker to offer solace and support. A GoFundMe campaign launched to help his family install security cameras on their property has raised over $110,000 as of Thursday afternoon.

Jules Pizza was also donating its profits to the Williams family on Wednesday night, according to a post on Instagram.

A second and separate campaign to support Williams had topped $75,000 Thursday afternoon, and a GoFundMe spokesperson confirmed that both campaigns were among the top 10 fundraisers for San Francisco. The combined amount is the highest raised for a cause in the city. 

“It’s going crazy,” Williams said of the fundraiser. “I didn’t look at it until this afternoon. I was shocked!”

But the weight of the loss of prized family records and possessions is also beginning to sink in.

“Over a hundred years of family history went away,” Williams said. “That hurt me more than anything, you know?”

Williams said he also plans to find a veterinarian who can look at injuries his dogs sustained in the blaze. “I think they got hurt trying to get up to my mom, and they fell down and hurt their legs. If it ain’t one thing, it’s another.”

“It really kicked in last night,” he added. “I’m not at home. I don’t know how long we’re going to be out of my house. It’s going to be hard for me to find a place for me and my dogs to stay. If I’ve got to get an RV or something for me, I will. I’m not gonna separate from my dogs.”

A handwritten note on pink paper taped to a surface expresses support for the Williams family, denounces racism, and is signed by neighbors Nikki, Lindsey, and Ez.
Source: George Kelly/The Standard
A handwritten note on yellow paper says, "Love you, Terry. Your family & pups deserve to feel safe, loved, & supported." It's signed by Hayes Neighbors with drawn hearts.
Source: George Kelly/The Standard
A handwritten message on purple paper, taped to a wooden surface, expresses support for a person named Terry and mentions justice and community solidarity.
Source: George Kelly/The Standard
A handwritten note on a pink paper is taped to a wooden surface with duct tape. The note expresses sympathy and encouragement. Parts of the message are redacted.
Source: George Kelly/The Standard
The image shows a pink note with black handwritten text that reads: "We love you and stand with you. Here if you need anything at all! ♥ -Leyla, Caroline, Kate and Maddie".
Source: George Kelly/The Standard
A wooden board has several messages written on pink and purple sticky notes. The notes express support against racism, offering love and solidarity to the Williams family. Duct tape secures the notes.
Source: George Kelly/The Standard
A neon pink card taped to a wooden board reads, "Fill the Neighboorhood with love not hate," in handwritten text.
Source: George Kelly/The Standard

George Kelly can be reached at