Charlotte-area YMCA prayer breakfast draws record crowd

Despite a history of success, Duke Energy’s Richard “Stick” Williams said he regularly struggles with a personal fear of failure, which he copes with through faith.

He spoke to a record crowd of nearly 2,200 people at the 27th annual YMCA Community Prayer Breakfast at the NASCAR Hall of Fame on Thursday morning.

Williams, Charlotte-based Duke Energy vice president of corporate community affairs and Duke Energy Foundation president, delivered a keynote message about faith in God’s ability to bring believers through challenges, or “giants,” such as doubt, fear and addiction.

“We all confront giants. … They come in different shapes and sizes,” he said. “The question to ask is, do you focus on the giants, or do you focus on the Lord?”

While many prayer events have a somber focus on community issues, event organizers wanted to incorporate more elements of praise into this year’s gathering, said Molly Thompson, spokeswoman for the YMCA of Greater Charlotte.

Breakfast committee volunteers “wanted to make (Thursday’s meeting) a very inspirational and energetic event … and have it be really, truly uplifting,” Thompson said.

Performances from Charlotte’s Central Church Sanctuary Choir helped meet that goal by bringing attendees to their feet numerous times. A video montage of YMCA staff, volunteers and area branch members singing and dancing to the song “Praise Him” also had the audience clapping and singing along.

Attendance continues to grow – roughly 2,000 people attended last year’s breakfast, Thompson said. The event is funded entirely by donations.

Besides his roles with Duke Energy, Williams also co-chairs Project LIFT – the $55 million public-private effort to significantly improve achievement at West Charlotte High and its feeder schools – and serves on the board of directors for Hope Haven and the Bank of Commerce of North Carolina.

It’s only been through faith that Williams said he’s been able to confront his own giants.

“Why do we freak out? We’re human,” he said. “We forget about the miracles.”