Eleven years ago, Jeff Woods and his wife, Lisa, were looking for a daycare for their one-year-old daughter, Keira. Childcare spaces were limited in Moncton, N.B., but a friend mentioned there might be some availability at The Salvation Army’s Small Blessings Early Childhood Development Centre, located in the same building as Moncton Citadel Community Church.
Once enrolled, their daughter thrived at the centre, where staff teach children from six months to four years old in a safe learning environment.
“I’ve met people of different faiths and beliefs for years, so the fact that it was a Christian centre didn’t bother me,” says Jeff.
But as he watched Army staff interact with parents and others, his curiosity about God grew.
“They showed so much love and caring, not only for those who came into the centre but for those beyond its walls,” he says. “I was intrigued. Is it real? Do people actually feel this way?”
Jeff began volunteering for the centre as a parent council member, where he got to know the director of the centre, Lorraine Veysey, in addition to the staff. His son, Kolby, who is two years younger than Keira, also enrolled in the daycare.
Jeff was born and raised in Moncton, and while he struggled with anxiety throughout his childhood, his upbringing was relatively normal.
“I had my challenges and I questioned whether there was a God,” he says.
Jeff experienced grief over the deaths of two close friends. The first committed suicide at an early age, and, later in life, another friend had a heart attack at the age of 36.
He then discovered his grandmother was dying. Out of her 13 children and numerous grandchildren, she passed away in Jeff’s arms at the hospital.
I was intrigued. Is it real? Do people actually feel this way?
“I was the only one present with her at the time,” he says. “For whatever reason, I was chosen to be with her at that moment.”
He remembered how scared she was as she approached death and how she reached out, calling for help.
“She was the only one who ever talked to me about God,” says Jeff. “I remember thinking I wanted to know what a relationship with Christ meant so that when the time came, I wouldn’t be reaching out in a scared way, but in a way where I was comforted.
“So there I was at The Salvation Army, involved in who they were and what they stood for from the Small Blessings perspective. My decision to become a Christian was made over a number of years, witnessing the sort of true servant leadership I had never experienced before.”
Volunteer of the Year
Though Jeff’s children outgrew Small Blessings, he continues to volunteer. He chairs their community board and serves on The Salvation Army’s community and family services council. He also volunteers with the Army on Tuesday mornings, preparing and serving hot meals to approximately 80 low-income men and women in need. He was recently awarded the Volunteer of the Year award for his commitment.
“Every Tuesday, I ask God to grant the people who come through the doors the courage to face their challenges and the wisdom to make the right choices as they journey through the day,” he says. “I pray they see the love of God through what we do and know that He loves them.”
Today, Jeff is a busy 46-year-old father who works full time, volunteers several days a week for The Salvation Army and his church, and is completing courses toward a bachelor’s degree in organizational management.
“After being exposed to The Salvation Army, I realized I’ve always felt more fulfilled when I am helping others,” he says. “If there’s a need, I have to help.
“It’s just who I am. It’s in my DNA.”