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AEP retiree Rich Woods volunteers with Agape Flights

by on November 29, 2010

Rich Woods, a 30-year AEP veteran who retired in 2005, is enjoying his volunteer work as an aircraft mechanic with Agape Flights.

VENICE, Fla.— We’ve all seen the old movies where the heroic pilot guides his airplane through a raging storm, flying on the proverbial wing and a prayer.

A wing and a prayer also had a lot to do with how AEP retiree Rich Woods landed in scenic Venice, Fla., as a volunteer with Agape Flights after spending the first 65 years of his life as a Buckeye in Ohio.

Woods spends anywhere from 16 to 40 hours a week as an aircraft mechanic with Agape Flights, helping the organization support missionaries who are serving in locations throughout Haiti, the Bahamas and the Dominican Republic.

“I’ve always had a love for airplanes,” said Woods, a 30-year AEP veteran who retired in 2005. “I grew up on a farm near Urbana, Ohio, that was in the landing pattern for Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton.”

Before joining AEP, Woods served in the U.S. Air Force, working as an aircraft mechanic while stationed in Texas. After leaving the military, he received an associate’s degree in aviation maintenance technology from what is now Columbus State Community College and earned his aircraft mechanic’s license from the Federal Aviation Administration.

Woods put his aircraft mechanic skills on the shelf while he was working for Columbus Southern Power and the AEP Service Corporation, but it all came flashing back to him in January of this year when he and his wife, Kristy, and dog, Gabby, were vacationing in Bradenton, Fla.

“That’s when I first heard about Agape Flights and how they were taking supplies to Haiti for the missionaries to distribute to earthquake victims there,” Woods recalled.

“I felt something — I felt a calling to help. I thought working with Agape Flights would be something I could do while we were snowbirding during the winter months. I thought it would be great to get my hands back on airplanes again.”

Woods contacted Agape Flights and sent them his resume. “The executive director told me that they could use me, and after that, I couldn’t get Agape Flights out of my mind,” he remembered. “I prayed about just what I was supposed to do for them.” 

"My first love has always been airplanes," Woods says.

Unsure whether Rich was supposed to help Agape Flights as a snowbird or year-round, he and Kristy planned to return to Florida in June. “We decided that as long as God opened doors, we would trust Him and go through them. So in April, we put our house in Lancaster on the market. Three days later, we had an asking price, no-contingency offer, and we had our answer,” Woods said.

“We drove to Florida over Memorial Day weekend and rented a house in Venice. After a short search, we found our new home and made our move permanent.

“I had not actually worked on an airplane since my days in the Air Force, but it all came back to me,” said Woods, who will celebrate his 66th birthday in February. “It’s fun, and it’s a blessing to be around the people who are involved with Agape Flights.

“All of the primary staff here are missionaries,” Woods explained. “Our main airplane is a twin-engine turboprop that can carry 3,000 pounds, and every week it’s loaded to capacity with food, clothing, medical supplies and whatever else the missionaries in those locations need. Lately we’ve shipped a whole bunch of frozen turkeys for Thanksgiving dinners.”

Volunteering has been a way of life for Woods ever since he retired from AEP. He was a volunteer at FairHoPe Hospice and Fairfield Medical Center in Lancaster, and he also volunteered with Honor Flight Columbus, an organization that arranges trips to the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C., for veterans of that war.

“I met a lot of wonderful people during the two years that I volunteered with Honor Flight,” Woods said. “I served on the ground crew, which included helping veterans in wheelchairs get to their gate and then welcoming them back to Columbus after their trip. I was able to serve as a guardian, accompanying the veterans on one of the trips to Washington, D.C., and that was a fabulous experience.”

Woods said it didn’t take much of an adjustment for him to adapt to the climate and lifestyle in Venice. “The sunsets here are spectacular,” he marveled. “I honestly believe that God has called me to a beautiful place to serve Him and to do something I always enjoyed doing. I’m not only enjoying what I’m doing, I’m sure it’s what God wants me to do.

“I enjoyed all the jobs I had with Columbus Southern and AEP. I worked in Distribution Planning and Distribution Support, I was supervisor of underground damage prevention (‘Call Before You Dig’), and was even involved with Columbus Southern’s Speakers Bureau,” he recalled. “But my first love has always been airplanes.

“Kristy tells her friends that I come home from the hangar hot, sweaty and greasy, but with a big smile on my face,” he concluded. “And that pretty much tells you how I’m enjoying my retirement here in Florida.”

From → Retiree Profiles

One Comment
  1. Barry Schumann permalink

    Congratulations, Rich! Combining your passion and your service in support of these important missions is a blessing, and having the opportunity to move to a community that you enjoy is another blessing. Best wishes to you and Kristy!

    Barry Schumann

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