The Franklin News-Post|
P. O. Box 250
310 Main Street, SW
Rocky Mount, Virginia 24151
|Allen Lee Woods is moving ‘onward and upward’|
Staff Photo by Stacey Hairston:
Allen Woods of Rocky Mount poses with a letter he received from U.S. Senator Mark Warner congratulating Woods on being chosen Goodwill Industries’ Achiever of the Year.
Monday, July 7, 2014
By STACEY HAIRSTON - Staff Writer
Goodwill Industries of the Valley has named Allen Lee Woods as it 2014 Achiever of the Year.
The award recognizes an individual who has shown great progress and accomplishment in overcoming barriers to employment, according to Goodwill.
The award recipient, "while still benefiting from a Goodwill work environment, or receiving services to support employment in the community," is earning a paycheck and is "on their road to independence."
Though Woods has recently met many of his life goals, things were not always so great, he said.
"I served four years in prison for writing four bad checks," he said.
In 2008, while living in Henry County, Woods found himself laid off from his job at American Martinsville upon the closing of the plant. A filing error delayed his unemployment benefits.
With a mortgage, car payment, one child and a pregnant wife, Woods said he was feeling the pressure.
"I was at my lowest point," said Woods. "I shouldn't have written the bad checks. I was just desperate."
In January 2009, Woods, a 2000 graduate of Franklin County High School and a lifelong member of Ferrum Church of the Brethren, was sentenced to serve four years for his crime.
He spent 10 months in the Henry County Jail before being transferred to Powhatan Correctional Center in State Farm for three months.
From there, Woods was sent to Lunenburg Correctional Center in Victoria, where he remained incarcerated for three more years.
"I ended up divorced," he said. "You really take for granted what (freedoms) you have until they're all gone."
But, Woods was determined not to sit still in prison.
"I wasn't going to lay around," he said. "I wanted to work. I wanted to take advantage of every opportunity that came my way."
Since Woods suffered from several disabilities -- diabetes, heart disease and leg injuries he sustained from a car wreck when he was a teenager -- the prison was hesitant to allow him to work.
"I could have drawn disability," he said. "But I didn't want to do that. I wanted to work."
While incarcerated at Lunenburg, Woods worked a job waiting on guards and inmates. The job earned him $37.50 a month. He also served as an usher on Friday and Sunday nights at the prison's church, Tabernacle of Power Baptist Church.
"I was also participating in an apprenticeship program for custodial maintenance on Wednesday nights," he said.
One day, Woods saw a posting for sign-ups for Southside Virginia Community College (SVCC) classes.
"I signed up immediately," he said.
After receiving a certificate in Information Technology from SVCC, he began working on his associate's degree from Virginia Western Community College (VWCC).
In January 2011, Woods entered into Goodwill's Prisoner Re-Entry program, which begins working with offenders up to a year before they are released. Highly structured and tightly supervised, the program's goal is to help individuals regain and discover skills and confidence needed for a successful transition to a stable, productive life.
Woods worked with his Goodwill case manager to update his resume and develop skills to assist him once out of prison.
As his April 2013 release grew nearer, Woods was notified that his mother had passed away.
"Since I had health problems, I guess no one wanted to tell me the bad news," he said. "The worst part is that I didn't get to attend her funeral because I wasn't notified until days after it had happened."
Woods said his case manager provided support and encouragement to keep him motivated during the difficult time.
On April 2, 2013, Woods was released.
"People don't understand that, once a person has served their time and is released, a lot of times, all they have is the clothes on their backs," said Woods. "Goodwill helped me get clothing, a place to lay my head and access to a laptop so I could finish my education at VWCC."
Goodwill also placed Woods on a 90-day trial work experience at its Rocky Mount store, where he was hired full-time last July.
Woods has since graduated from VWCC with an associate's degree and has been promoted to a supervisory position at the Westlake Goodwill store.
"I just can't thank Goodwill Industries enough," he said. "They gave me the chance for a new life. I owe a lot to them. Also to my dad, who supported me and gave me a place to stay when I was released, and to my aunt, who has also been a tremendous support."
Upon being chosen as Goodwill Industries' Achiever of the Year, Woods received a congratulatory letter from U.S. Senator Mark Warner.
"When our country faces challenges, society relies upon role models to inspire success and create hope," the letter states. "I know your hard work will inspire others to exhibit the same qualities that have enabled you to be successful."
Woods plans to remarry in January and now shares a new apartment in Rocky Mount with his children and fianceé.
He is working on the second of two apps he has created for sale in Apple's App Store.
"My first app is called Money Wheels and is a fuel mileage predictor," he said. "It sells for 99 cents in the App Store."
After placing 19th out of 1,948 entries in the national Cyber Aces competition that tests overall computer and app knowledge, Woods is now working on his second app, which helps configure the lowest grocery store prices at any given time.
"I'm hoping this new app will be released in August," he said.
Woods is also working on an advanced marketing class.
"I feel like I need all the help and education I can get because of my record," he said. "My goal is to change the way people think of those who have been incarcerated. I'm looking for whatever opportunity that will keep me moving onward and upward."