NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - East Texas is mourning the loss of an influential community leader, Jeff Woods, who served as CEO and President of the Boys and Girls Club of Deep East Texas for more than 20 years. He is responsible for establishing successful Boys and Girls Clubs around the region, and all that knew him said he dedicated his life to making a positive impact on children.
"He gave every kid in this community a place to go, rich, poor it didn't matter," said long-time friend and employee Kevin Clayton. "His vision was for everyone to have a place to go, and for everyone to be equal and he did that."
After battling cancer for nearly a decade, he leaves behind a lifetime of service to the thousands impacted by the resources he dedicated his life to providing East Texas children.
"He laid the foundation for the at risk children here in Nacogdoches, he gave us something to do and somewhere to go and I think it saved a lot of us," said Arsenio Hall who Woods recruited for a basketball team more than 10 years ago, and remained a part of his life from then on.
"When he first told me he had cancer, he challenged me he said, 'Arsenio, I want you to go to college.' I graduate in May, but that was something I wanted to do," Hall said.
Demond Jackson who Woods employed to help with various Boys and Girls Club fundraisers said he believed in him when no one else did, and it was his mission to ensure every child who walked through the doors of the Boys and Girls Club felt like they had a purpose. He said it's a key reason for his success today.
"I can truly say he was my role model and someone I look up to," said Demond Jackson. "I wouldn't be who I am today if it wasn't for Coach woods."
Woods grew the Boys and Girls Club beyond the walls of the Nacogdoches building, but ensured that thousands in the deep East Texas area felt they had a place to grow and learn. It was his ability to go above and beyond that many said they will remember for years to come.
"I have seen that man go down to Houston for chemo, drive back and finish a day of work, and then meet me in Central Heights to referee a game, and then go home and be with his family," Clayton said.
It was this service to others that shaped the community and many others into who they are today, but all that knew him said his family was the motivation for everything he did.
"I think that's a testament to his wife Nancy as well," Clayton said. "I know there were many times he confided in me that she would never let him give up, and I think that's testament to her as well."
In addition to his wife Nancy, his daughters Sarah, Kaitlyn, Hailey, and Madison will all remember his legacy for the impact they made on the entire community. The families third daughter, Alyson Mae Woods who passed away in 2003, is what the playground behind the Boys and Girls Club facility was named after honoring her life.
"I just want to say thank you to his family, his daughters for sharing him with us for so many years, he was a dad to so many, but they were so willing," Clayton said. "I know he and Allyson had the best reunion and they are smiling down from above."
Jeff Woods provided the youth of East Texas a place to grow, learn, and become better. Funeral arrangements have been set for Wednesday, October 5, 2016 at Calvary Baptist Church at 2:00 pm. Family and friends are invited to visitation on Monday, October 3, 2016 from 5:00 pm – 7:00 pm at Cason Monk-Metcalf Funeral Directors.