It is with a heavy heart that I tell you our friend and colleague Phyllis Wood died Friday July 29, after a prolonged battle with cancer.  She was 24 years old.

Phyllis worked as an Independent Living Admin in our Indiana office.  Notably, she had been a participant in our Indiana IL program for 5 years, until she turned 21, in 2018.

In 2018, as Phyllis was preparing to ‘age out’ of the foster care system, she nominated JusticeWorks to be the Statewide Independent Living Provider of the Year.  We won.  Poignantly, Phyllis’ nominating essay was called “# Not a Statistic”.  She recounted how, at 15, someone forecast her life:  ‘in 10 years, you’ll be in prison, a mental hospital, homeless, a drug addicted prostitute, or dead’.  Phyllis proudly said, “I’ll soon be 21, I have a job, a car, an apartment, and I’m in college, I’m not a statistic!”.

Phyllis was a passionate advocate for IL services (“done the right way!”) and served on the IL Youth Advisory Board.  She was quick to tell people how important the service was and what a profound difference it had made in her life.

I first met Phyllis at the IL Awards Banquet in 2018, and was profoundly struck by her positive attitude and radiant smile.  Phyllis made friends wherever she went.  Her goal in life was to finish her bachelor’s degree and become an IL worker for JusticeWorks.  When she completed her Associates Degree, I celebrated by email with her.

I saw Phyllis at our IL luncheon last year and met her fiancé, Brandon.  Phyllis had recently been diagnosed with cancer, but her spirit and smile were undiminished.  After a course of treatment seemed to be successful, the cancer came back viciously a few months ago and there was nothing more that the doctors could do.  In a remarkable testament of love and faith, Phyllis and Brandon honored their wedding date this past June, even though Phyllis was then in hospice care.  She was a beautiful bride.

Those of you who were privileged to know Phyllis, know your grief is shared by many.  If you weren’t fortunate enough to have known her, know that she was a pure example of JusticeWorks’ mission and values.  The world is less bright without her.

If, in addition to your prayers, you want to do something to honor Phyllis, her husband is left with many bills from her treatment and you can send support to:

Brandon Morgan
c/o Lindsey Jones
JusticeWorks YouthCare
655 Church St., Suite 200 Indiana, PA 15701

A gift in her honor to the American Cancer Society would be appreciated.

This is a sad reminder that we can’t take life for granted, and every day is a blessing.

Take care and be safe,