The March 2012 edition of the Beacon did a terrific job of giving a history lesson of James Bay over the last four decades, including the birth of the Beacon, the founding of the James Bay Community Project, New Horizons and the James Bay Community Association.

What the articles failed to mention was that none of these community touchstones would have been possible without the efforts of Kenneth and Marian Wood. Rev. Wood was the minister at James Bay United Church, beginning in 1967. Marian Wood, his wife, was a tireless social worker who had a hand in the formation of just about every James Bay non-profit that still exists today.

It wasn't long after the Woods arrived at James Bay United that Ken Wood called for an Action Committee to be formed. The goal? To see what could be done about a neighbourhood that was suffering from neglect, decay and a growing sense of helpless weariness. At the behest of this group, Marian Wood conducted a survey of James Bay. It was that initial study that was the springboard for the Action committee's application for an $11,000 Local Initiatives Projects (LIP) grant that allowed the hiring of five young people to do an extensive needs survey of James Bay. The resulting investigation paved the way for the social agencies, newspaper and neighbourhood association. Committee headquarters was the little village church on Michigan Street.

The first organization that sprang out of James Bay United Church's Action committee was the James Bay Neighbourhood Association. Concerned with the unrestricted developments of the day, the association operates to this day.

In 1973, New Horizons sprang out of another federal grant secured by church members to give retirees a sense of dignity and purpose. New Horizons, in fact, evolved out of a seniors' group that was already meeting at the church.

That same year the James Bay News, predecessor of the Beacon, was birthed from JBUC's Action Committee.

Lastly, the James Bay Community Project came together as a joint project of the JBUC committee and a group of dedicated neighbourhood social workers and healthcare workers who wanted to integrate community services under one roof.

All this happened before the outset of 1974, the year Ken Wood retired from the ministry. But he and Marian had left their mark in six short years.

All of these organizations thrive today on their own, outside the walls of the village church. But it's unlikely any would exist without James Bay United Church or the Woods.

By Grant Kerr