VALDOSTA – Jeanette Newbern Coody, a longtime philanthropist, turns 100, Sept. 19, and she continues to work and serve in the community.
Honors for her lifetime of service have come to Coody from winning the highest award given by Levi Strauss, she also won the highest club award in the nation, the Jennie Award, and this past August, she received The Haven’s first lifetime achievement award.
Coody was employed at Levi Strauss & Co., and in 1986, she was given $40,000 to donate to domestic violence causes.
“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,” Coody said. “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 gained the support of 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 worked tirelessly to get the project going.
At the time, Levi Strauss Co. was one of the largest employers in the area and its philanthropic efforts in the community were vital to a variety of local programs and services.
Coody facilitated the corporation’s initial commitment and worked for 12 years to support The Haven and to improve local services to battered women and children.
According the the Haven, “under the guidance of Harvey Yellin, the Victim-Witness Assistance Program’s senior advocate, a Battered Women’s Task Force was formed in October of 1986 and the planning of an emergency shelter program was begun. The Task Force applied for and received a 501c(3) nonprofit incorporation and the temporary emergency shelter was opened July 18, 1988, with a trained staff and supportive community behind it.”
Today, The Haven has 18 staff members and eight programs serving victims in a nine-county area, including Lowndes, Brooks, Colquitt, Echols, Berrien, Cook, Lanier, Clinch and Atkinson counties, in South Georgia.
“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.”
Through her former employment with Levi-Strauss, 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 is a charter member, Coody has devoted her life to discovering needs and finding ways to fulfill them.
“I am not a part of things just to be a part,” she said. “Life is about helping others. I would rather give than receive.”
Coody has volunteered with the Boys and Girls Club of Valdosta and the Valdosta-Lowndes County Chamber of Commerce. She not only helps on the community level but on a personal level.
Throughout the years, Coody has been dedicated to helping the ladies of Levi. She has helped women find jobs, enroll in GED classes and has built relationships with many.
Annie Roberts has been Coody’s roommate for more than 20 years. Roberts was hospitalized for six months, Coody had to adjust to not having her friend and housemate.
“In 23 years, we have never had an unkind word,” she said. “She has taken care of me and I have taken care of her.
“My mother’s name was Annie and since she passed God has always given me an Annie,” she said. “When my husband was killed, there was an Annie and when Levi closed, I was given my Annie now.”
Coody is the longest living of her eight siblings. In July, she held a celebration for her Newbern family and relatives. Coody said family came from Fort Pierce, Fort Myers, Jacksonville and Tallahassee, Florida.
“I am the youngest child, my mother passed when I was just eight months old,” she said. “I wanted to meet my family members to share with them some things that they may not have known about me.
“I am not a part of things just to be a part,” Coody said, “I have seen many changes over the years and the worst of all is how we take care of each other. I would love to see people return to loving one another because love is an action word.”