A decade dedicated to aiding vulnerable community members: Alexia Wood celebrates 10 years as St. John’s executive director
By Tori Wittenbrock
GREEN BAY – Over the past years, any conversation involving the St. John’s Homeless Shelter has included the name Dr. Alexia Wood, who has served as the shelter’s executive director for the last decade.
At the helm of St. John’s Ministries, Wood helps provide hope for a better future and access to more stable housing for the homeless community in the Greater Green Bay area.
Wood said the past decade working with St. John’s has been “ever-changing and always full.”
“The needs of the population have changed and evolved so much over the years,” she said. “My work has been about engaging with people and uniting and empowering people as a whole.”
For her, Wood said her work with St. John’s is a “vocational calling,” self-described as passionate about ensuring that every single person understands their inherent value.
Wood’s experience is backed by her extensive education.
She earned her bachelor’s degree in social work from Evangel University in Missouri in 2007.
Wood went on to obtain her master’s degree from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in 2008.
Prior to coming on at St. John’s, Wood said she worked in various capacities serving the homeless, those with addictions, individuals receiving government assistance and women engaged with the criminal justice system as victims of human sex trafficking.
Accompanied by a background in mental and behavioral health, Wood received her Doctorate of Social Work from the University of Southern California in 2019, with a focus on the perception of marginalization in the community.
Driven to make a difference
Throughout her ten years of service to the community, Wood has said she has felt “driven to create positive change in the community.”
Assuming the role in 2012, she said as executive director, she is able to “see the bigger picture lens from her unique position.”
“I am the ‘big picture’ gal,” Wood said. “I work to set the vision for the organization and ensure that staff and volunteers have the resources and support needed to carry out their roles with passion.”
She said her personal experiences are a large part of what has influenced her work today.
“My family went through a couple of years of financial struggle,” Wood said. “Money was tight, and choices had to be made.”
However, Wood said her parents were very intentional in allowing her to witness ways to overcome these struggles.
Although she has never personally experienced homelessness, Wood said she understands the struggle of not having a stable home.
“I truly believe that it is a human right (to have stable housing),” she said. “I envision a future for our community that has addressed some of the root causes of homelessness,” said Wood. “And a community with access to stable and affordable housing.”
Wood has said she values the privilege her work has given her of being able to assist those in need who do not have access to safe and affordable housing.
She said she is proud to be able to be a part of the change in the way that homelessness is perceived in the community through a larger-scale picture.
Wood said her work matters, because people matter.
“No role is more important but, together, we instill dignity into the lives of others,” she said. “Together, we are St. John’s.”
Under her leadership, St. John’s Ministries has helped house hundreds of homeless guests each emergency shelter season, opened and supported two day resource centers focused on using its programs and services to move the vulnerable to self-sufficiency and has set plans in motion to help address the issue of homelessness at its core in an attempt to solve it.
This plan, she said, includes introducing social-inclusive housing to “get upstream to serve individuals and families to hopefully prevent homelessness, so we can start to trend numbers downward.”
Wood’s contribution to the community does not end with her work at St. John’s, however.
“I worked with kids in the foster system, and I asked myself, ‘What am I willing to do on a personal level to make a change?’” she said. “At 28, I became a foster parent myself.”
Wood now has four of her own children that came to her through the foster care system that are between the ages of 4 and 12.