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Retired high school teacher carries out lessons in service

"It’s fun to think maybe you had an impact," says retired Merrillville High School teacher Bruce Woods.

Bruce Woods of Merrillville is one of those people who has touched far more people in his life than can be counted — as a former educator and as a volunteer.

He recently attended a reunion of the first class he taught. “It was just beautiful,” he said. “I had one student who lives in Pennsylvania, and we just embraced each other. I found out he is just like me and does a lot of volunteer stuff. It’s fun to think maybe you had an impact.”

There’s no doubt he guided many students during his 29-year teaching career.

Woods taught English at Merrillville High School and also directed plays and was the faculty adviser for the yearbook and the school newspaper for a number of years.

He says his first passion is working with kids, but his second is history. He has been involved with the Lake County Historical Society for decades, currently serving as president. He serves as the secretary of the board of the Lake County Courthouse Foundation, as director of the Lake County Historical Museum, and as Lake County Historian.

He loves to see young people getting interested in history and working to preserve it. On a recent Saturday, he met a group of about 30-40 students at the courthouse where they helped trim bushes, clean and do other tasks to maintain the property. “At Crown Point High School, you have to have 40 hours of community service to graduate,” he said. “They worked very hard and were wonderful.”

Those roles in preserving the history of Northwest Indiana are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to his volunteer work. Woods is also president of the Merrillville Education Foundation and has served in that capacity for 14 years. He helps raise funds and distribute grants. He’s also president of the Woodmar Hammond Kiwanis Club, secretary and treasurer of the Merrillville Kiwanis Club and past president of the Gary Kiwanis Club. He is lieutenant governor of the Indiana District for Kiwanis and oversees seven clubs in the Calumet Division.

Woods also delivers for Meals on Wheels, is on the board of trustees of the Lake County Public Library Board and is a hospice volunteer at Crown Point Christian Village, where he provides companionship for those in various stages of illness.

“I wasn’t sure I could do hospice, but I’m a sensitive guy and I found being with the patients made my life so much better. I appreciated my life more. It’s a selfish thing in a way because it makes us feel better,” he said. “I keep busy but it’s a good thing. I love to give back and volunteer.”

The Legacy Foundation has noticed, recognizing Woods as Volunteer of the Year in 2000.

When he can find the time, he likes to read historical nonfiction and tend to the flowers and plants on his balcony.

“I’m very happy that, even though I’ve had some health issues, I’m up and around and doing well,” he said.

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