Valdosta Daily Times

September 16, 2012

A lifetime of helping others for Jeanette Coody

Elizabeth Butler
The Valdosta Daily Times

VALDOSTA — “If you see the need, take the lead.” That’s the motto Jeanette Newbern Coody has lived by, according to close friend Lois Tyre, who has known her for 57 years. It would be that philosophy which would lead Coody to found The Haven shelter for battered women.

Coody had read a newspaper story telling of the death of a young woman killed by her husband.

“(The woman had) felt she had no other place to go for refuge because her parents were deceased,” Coody said. “This stirred my heart. In my mind I wondered why Valdosta did not have a place to offer. We had so many other support systems but no domestic violence shelter.

“The company with whom I worked, Levi Strauss & Co., offered assistance through their foundation for many provisions in each city in which they were located. I began to think of the possibility of a shelter in Valdosta because in the year 1986, domestic violence was a special project companywide.”

Coody prevailed on Levi Division Manager Mary Ellen McLoughlin of Knoxville, Tenn., to come to Valdosta the following day, and together they developed a quick plan to become a benefactor of the funding. Coody left no stone unturned to get the project going.

“I have always loved to tackle a difficult task that many say cannot be done,” she said. “I like to show them it can be done. I learned a little poem early on:  

‘Somebody said it couldn’t be done, but he with a chuckle replied, Maybe it couldn’t but he would be one, who wouldn’t say so ’til he tried.’

“All my life this has been my motto. I am looking forward to the opening of a new facility in December for The Haven. What a blessing.”

Through her former employment with Levi; through her church, Valdosta’s First Baptist, where she sings in the choir and teaches a Sunday School class; and through Azalea City Woman’s Club, which she leads as president, Coody has devoted her life to discovering needs and finding ways to fulfill them.

Coody has also volunteered with the Boys & Girls Club of Valdosta and the Chamber of Commerce. She not only helps on the community level, but on a personal level as well.

“She cooks constantly and takes food to neighbors who aren’t (feeling) well,” Tyre said.

Tyre knows firsthand of Coody’s helping of others. When Tyre had her second heart attack and she moved from Lake City, Fla., to Langdale Place, Coody came and stayed with her for two weeks until Tyre adjusted to her new home.

“Every night since (my husband) Jimmy died (in 2006), she calls between 9-10 p.m. to check on me,” she said. “She’s closer than any sister I have ever had.”

Coody, who will be 90 on Sept. 19, continues to work and serve in the community.

Honors for her lifetime of service have come to Coody. She not only won the highest award given by Levi Strauss, she also won the highest club award in the nation, the Jennie Award.

“My greatest accomplishment,” she said, “is learning to let go and let God. Many accolades have come my way for which I am grateful, but learning not to worry about ‘things’ and let God lead me is an accomplishment that did not come easy. Each obstacle in my life has been a strengthening process, a stepping stone to a higher plane. I give God the glory for everything I am or have become. I am just his obedient child trusting him daily.”