You were born in Millbrook, then moved to Ohio as a child and lived there for 60 years. What brought you back to Alabama?
JW: My family moved to Ohio when I was four years old. I did not want to move away from my grandparents. My family visited during the holidays, and my sister and I spent every summer in Millbrook. I loved Millbrook so much that I was convinced I wanted to live there. I told myself Millbrook would be the place to live when the time was right. However, the time never seemed right, and after high school, I married and had a family and a career. After the passing of my parents and two failed marriages, the time seemed right. I moved to Millbrook five years ago and have never regretted it.
How has serving as the Meals on Wheels Coordinator at MACOA impacted your life?
JW: Becoming the Meals on Wheels Coordinator has been an asset to my life. To become a Meals on Wheels client, you must be at least 60 years old, unable to cook for yourself, and homebound. I have always had a passion for the elderly. My mother’s siblings live close by, so my daughter, Jayne, and I make sure we are there when they need us. God has blessed me with health and strength, allowing me to serve others. When I see and hear about the obstacles of others, I know I am a blessed individual.
You love devoting your time to others. What involvement do you have with your church, Lake Elam Missionary Baptist?
JW: I am a dedicated member of the Lake Elam Missionary Baptist Church in Millbrook. I attended Lake Elam when I visited as a child, most of my family belonged to Lake Elam, and there was no other church I considered joining when I moved here. I began serving in the culinary department whenever the church would have programs. Currently, I serve as a greeter. Greeting the people coming through the door makes my heart sing, and seeing the smiling faces each Sunday makes my day.
You mentioned that you love your job and what you do; however, it can also be mentally intense. What does a typical day look like for you?
JW: The role of Meals on Wheels Coordinator is sometimes stressful. We have 36 routes serving 428 clients in the Montgomery County area Monday through Friday. As the coordinator, I ensure a driver covers each route. There are 25 or more routes that I staff with volunteers each week.
How did you develop a passion for serving the elderly community?
JW: I like being around the elderly. In my opinion, an elder has so much wisdom to offer. Being attentive to older men and women has value no matter how old you are personally. You can always learn something from an elder.
Years ago, you were diagnosed with breast cancer. How did your faith sustain you during that challenging time?
JW: Twenty-seven years ago, I was diagnosed with stage one breast cancer. My mammogram came back inconclusive, so they did an ultrasound which also came back inconclusive. I know within my heart that God put things into place. Had I waited six months for another mammogram, the cancer could have been in the later stages. My faith in God is strong, and He is my strength.
It’s extremely difficult to endure the loss of a child. To anyone struggling with the loss of a loved one, what coping advice would you give them?
JW: It is hard to cope with losing her, but I know God does not discriminate. I know that she is in heaven with him and is not suffering. I believe if I could ask her to come back, she would not want to. Losing a loved one is tough, but I would say to someone who is losing or has lost a child to lean on the Lord. He hears and feels your hurt. Know that God is with you and has his arms around you.
You believe: “If it’s not in God’s will, it won’t happen.” How do your words of affirmation reassure God’s plan for your life?
JW: I knew I wanted to move to Alabama. After praying to God, it became easy to prepare for the move. Sometimes, things seem hard, but God is always there to see you through. And you will look back at the dilemma and say, “Why did I worry so much?” He’s an awesome God.
Jan Woods is the Meals on Wheels Coordinator for Montgomery Area Council on Aging. She’s a native of Millbrook, AL, and enjoys providing service and support to seniors in the Montgomery community.