John Woodmansee and his Little Red Pickup is a Welcome Sight for Seniors
By Linda Lewis
On any given day, you are likely to find John Woodmanse busy fixing something that has broken or gone wrong in the home of an older person.
His little red pickup is loaded with tools and an assortment of carpentry and plumbing supplies. He might be repairing a leaking kitchen faucet, replacing a broken lock, or troubleshooting a malfunctioning washing machine. To the homeowners he helps, his presence comes as an answer to prayer because he is volunteering his services through the minor home repair program of The Shepherd’s Center of Greater Winston-Salem.
Last month, John was honored as one of The Shepherd’s Center’s Volunteers of the Year. He was recognized for the remarkable accomplishment of assisting with over 260 home repair requests since he began volunteering in June 2015. These are needs that would often have gone unmet because older homeowners on fixed incomes just don’t have the resources to pay for essential home repairs. A recent community survey of people age 60 and over in Forsyth County revealed that 20 percent have repair needs that are not being addressed, usually because of limited ability to pay for services.
This is where John and other volunteers with The Shepherd’s Center’s home repair program step in. Volunteers use their skills to provide service; homeowners assist as they can with the costs of supplies and materials. In 2016, the program responded to 579 requests, serving 348 individuals.
Like most Shepherd’s Center volunteers, John is retired, but you will not find him relaxing in his rocking chair. In addition to his work with The Shepherd’s Center, he volunteers to assist with tax preparation and he sings with the Winston-Salem Symphony Chorale. He is also active at Highland Presbyterian Church where he is a Deacon, serves on the Property Committee, and sings in the choir.
Fixing things seems to be in John’s DNA. As a young boy in suburban Chicago during World War II, he helped his dad repair things, and even started his own “fix-it” business at the age of 12. After college, a stint in the Air Force, and graduate school, a career path in psychology brought him to Winston-Salem and the Wake Forest University faculty, where he taught for 13 years.
But his passion for fixing things eventually pulled him away from academia and into a home repair and remodeling business, followed by a very successful home inspections business. He became one of the first licensed home inspectors in the state and earned a reputation as a leader in the field. He sold his business a couple of years ago, and with time on his hands, found The Shepherd’s Center’s program as a way to use his fix-it skills to help older homeowners.
At 85, John exudes energy and enthusiasm, always welcoming a new challenge. “I love doing worthwhile stuff and working alongside homeowners to solve difficult problems,” he says. He invites other retirees to join him in staying physically active, mentally challenged, and engaged in helping others. “You might be surprised at what’s in it for you!”
Linda Lewis is the associate executive director of the Shepherd’s Center of Greater Winston-Salem. For more information on this and other programs, visit www.shepherdscenter.org.