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The Reporter’s People of the Year: Jeanne and Ken Woods


“They continue to share what they’ve got.”

That’s Councilwoman Chris Lewis’ one-sentence description of Jeanne and Ken Woods. The couple also consciously keeps a low profile while supporting the Shelter Island community, Ms. Lewis said. Of the countless acts of kindness the couple have performed, each one has been done quietly and with grace, Ms. Lewis added, and the word “stranger” isn’t in the Woods’ vocabulary.

Sharing and commitment to others make the Woods the Reporter’s 2015 People of the Year.

“They set a good example to all, including me,” said Father Peter DeSanctis, pastor of Our Lady of the Isle, speaking about their unfailing response to calls for aid that they hear through the church.

In some families, just the wife or the husband is active in the community, Father Peter said. But in this case, Mr. and Ms. Woods are both on the frontlines together helping in large and small ways.

The Woods have opened their home to children who are too ill to spend overnights at Camp Quinipet during one week each August, called Camp Adventure, when kids with cancer can forget hospital visits and painful therapies and just be kids having fun in a sleep-away camp setting.

They welcomed young Jesse Pallas and his mother, Fariba, from Miller Place into their home when Jesse’s condition was so serious he couldn’t spend nights at Quinipet. The couple also took in nurses and other health care professionals volunteering at the camp when there wasn’t enough room at Quinipet to house them.

“They made it possible for Jesse to come,” said Camp Adventure Director Melissa Firmes-Ray. “They opened their home, and while they knew it was a good cause, these people were still strangers. That’s a very special thing to do.”

Jesse and his mom were made to feel comfortable and get the rest needed to return to camp refreshed and ready for activities every morning, Ms. Firmes-Ray said.

When the Shelter Island Bucks launched its inaugural season in 2012 in the Hamptons Collegiate Baseball League, the Woods were among the first Islanders to welcome a player into their home. The following year they opened their doors to two players, said former General Manager Dave Gurney.

“I don’t even know if they like baseball,” Mr. Gurney said. But when they heard there was a need, they were among the first to answer the call.

That first year, Mr. Gurney admits he wasn’t sure what he and others organizing the Bucks were in for by inviting a group of teenagers to live on the Island in private homes for two months. But through strict discipline from the organizers and the generosity of people like the Woods, the Bucks have captured the hearts of Islanders — and brought an HCBL championship to the Island this past summer.

The early participation by the Woods helped to set the bar for other families who would house Bucks in subsequent summers, Mr. Gurney said, contributing to many joyful summer evenings at Fiske Field.

But it’s not just welcoming strangers into their home with heartfelt hospitality that defines the Woods’ community spirit. They’re on the speed dial of Senior Services to drive their fellow Islanders to doctors’ appointments and never fail to answer the call to assist the homebound with everyday chores.

Active in the Our Lady Of the Isle parish, Ms. Woods is the coordinator of the Extraordinary Ministry of Holy Communion, bringing the sacrament to the homebound. Mr. Woods is the man who ensures light bulbs are in working order and candles in good condition for church services, said Father Peter. But the pastor added that there are many acts of healing and service performed by the Woods for the wider community that are known only to those who are the recipients of the couple’s charity.

According to their daughter, Maureen Woods-Ostermann, her mother may have honed her skills at being a caring and giving person while raising her. Ms. Woods-Ostermann thanked her mother for giving her “a beautiful life” and “for helping me to grow so that I can share this life with my girls.” Her mother has always been her “biggest cheerleader.”

“I am blessed to call [her] mom,” Ms. Woods-Ostermann said.

The Woods give equally to people close to them and to those they barely know. And clearly, Ms. Woods has her priorities straight. When Ms. Lewis asked about a tick allergy her friend has that requires she maintain a special, rigorous diet, Ms. Woods responded that others suffer from a wide range of illnesses, and hers is “not so bad.”

One small sign of what makes up this Island couple, is that they are always looking beyond themselves, sharing what they have, to help others.

“They have big hearts,” Ms. Lewis said, which anyone who knows the Woods, knows that’s an understatement.