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INGLEWOOD, Calif. – While serving in the U.S. Navy, Thomas Woods developed a strong sense of duty and camaraderie. So strong, in fact, that it carried his life's purpose after his military service concluded. 

Woods experienced the same unique challenges veterans face when transitioning to civilian life himself, and used those personal experiences to dedicate his life to serving those who served their country.

That continued commitment to serving veterans is why Woods – currently Volunteer & Veteran Activities Coordinator at U.S.Vets' Inglewood location – is why he was recently recognized as the Rams' 10th pLAymaker honoree of 2023. 

"It feels great to be recognized as the LA Rams Playmaker," Woods said. "I do not do the work I do for any kind of recognition! When one of my veteran clients walks away from me happier and feeling supported, it's all the reward that I need. But it certainly feels great to be acknowledged and receiving $5,000 to support the work we do for our veteran residents will go a very long way and make a real difference in their daily lives."

Woods initially served vets independently before joining U.S.VETS in 2020 as an outreach specialist, a role which put him on the frontlines of actively combating veteran homelessness. A little over a year after serving in that capacity, he was promoted to his current role, which involved organizing events that "not only bring joy and camaraderie but also contribute to the overall well-being of the veterans under U.S.VETS—Inglewood's care," according to his bio. Some of the events Woods introduced included nights featuring live bands, karaoke, and games.

His leadership also extends beyond those events – he also leads a team of veteran residents to support these activities "in ways only someone who has walked in their shoes can understand." The organization said that unique perspective contributes to the success of the events and also strengthens the camaraderie among the veteran community.

U.S.VETS provides housing, counseling, career programs and supportive services to help veterans rebuild and thrive. Today in the United States, nearly 34,000 veterans were experiencing homelessness, accounting for approximately 7% of all homeless adults.

In 2022, its Inglewood location provided shelter to 1,035 veterans via outreach resulting in 42,373 bed nights, provided 48,735 meals, and responded to the mental health needs of United States veterans.

Woods draws on his own experience when defining what inspire change means. 

"As a United States Navy veteran and someone who serves those of us who served every day, inspiring change to me is simply doing what one can to help a person achieve their hopes and dreams," he said. "If through your service to others, you can help a person to make better choices for themselves and their community, then you are inspiring change that will hopefully impact a network of people." 

And when it comes to inspiring change in one's own community, Woods points to getting involved U.S.VETS location in Inglewood as a starting point. 

"Here in Inglewood, U.S.VETS Inglewood is the largest home to formerly homeless veterans," Woods said. "It is the best kept secret in this awesome community and one way we can inspire change in this community is to continue to spread the word about this facility and the veterans that live here.  We hope the Inglewood and surrounding communities will learn more about who we are and support our efforts to end veteran homelessness right here in LA!"

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