(Woody Medeiros and Eliza Allee Wilson | Photo courtesy of J Bar J Youth Services)
Nearly 30 years ago, Woody Medeiros’ 16-year-old daughter Cori became pregnant. While Cori and her son Bubba had the love and support of family, Cori’s situation made Woody aware of pregnant girls and young mothers facing homelessness and abuse in our community and the lack of resources to help them.
Woody and husband Dennis brought two pregnant girls into their home, offering safety and shelter while they prepared for and brought new lives into the world. At 14 and 17, this support was a godsend, and both girls gave birth to healthy baby boys.
Wanting to help more teen mothers, Woody began volunteering at Grandma’s House shortly after it opened in 1992. She soon took on the program as Director and over her years there cared for 270 mom’s and babies. One of these young women was Eliza Allee, and her daughter Genesis. Eliza grew up in a homeless family, and at 16 moved out of her family’s cramped camp trailer. Fortunately, the FAN advocate at her school connected her with Cascade Youth & Family Center and Living Options For Teens (The LOFT) their transitional living facility. She moved to the LOFT and while a resident, she completed high school with a 4.0 in her senior year.
On her own and several months later, Eliza became pregnant. Although she had learned many life skills at the LOFT and had become self-sufficient, facing pregnancy, childbirth, and the transition into motherhood on her own was a daunting hurdle. She returned to Bend and moved into Grandma’s House to have her baby.
Eliza later decided to return to work at the LOFT, taking a job as a caseworker. She was excited to help the next generation of homeless youth overcome their obstacles.
In 2017, Woody began planning for retirement. Woody had managed to build a solid donor base and kept Grandma’s House open for 25 years! She loved the girls and their babies, and passionately wanted the work to continue, but taking care of the moms and babies and volunteers along with running the business side of a nonprofit was getting to be too much. As Woody’s 70th birthday approached she wanted to spend time with her family and take time to explore Oregon.
Over lunch, Woody and J Bar J CEO, Stephanie Alvstad, came up with a plan for Grandma’s House to become a program of J Bar J Youth Services. The larger 501c3 has centralized ad-ministration, accounting and human resources. Woody would be relieved of these duties and be able to focus on the girls and babies. The Boards of both organizations agreed this was a good fit and would ensure the continuation of Grandma’s House into the future.
Eliza and Genesis had been as close as family to Woody over these years and now Eliza worked for the same organization! In 2019 Eliza moved from her position at the LOFT to Grandma’s House and Woody began planning her exit in earnest.
Last fall, Woody retired and passed the reins to Eliza. Woody’s retirement brought Eliza full circle. Eliza knows that homeless or abused teen moms and their babies need a home where they can be safe and make the transition from teen to mother. Now she and Grandma’s House will provide the best possible beginning for teen moms and babies.
Talking about Woody, Eliza summed up her life work: “How many people can say that they spent their career giving safety and warmth and love to people, besides Woody?”