Betsy Wood drew a line in the sand
How her charitable gifts will keep working for peace
Betsy Wood remembers the day she finished reading John Hersey's Hiroshima, a novel about the atomic bombing of Japan and the horrific suffering that resulted. The year was 1946, and she was in her freshman year of college. She read the last page, closed the book, and said, "I am a pacifist."
Betsy always had an interest in social justice. She was raised in Manhattan and went to the High School of Music and Art, now LaGuardia High School. In addition to volunteering in a low-income nursery school, she remembers singing Gilbert and Sullivan tunes with students from an area settlement house.
But it was when she left the concrete behind that she truly found her calling. She recalls a summer spent living communally and working on farms in the South. "That summer I had a real religious experience and got interested in raising food for hungry people around the world," she says. Coincidentally, a milk strike left the mayor of New York with some funds to distribute, and he offered scholarships for students studying agriculture. Betsy received one, studying at Cornell and going on to work for a co-op in Berkeley, California, where she did marketing and consumer education.
But her passion for peace stayed with her. Through the years she participated in massive marches, from the civil rights era to the Million Mom March against Guns in 2000. One day a neighbor called and invited her to join an unusual effort. It was just prior to the invasion of Iraq, and the group went to the ocean, disrobed, and spelled the word "peace" in the sand with their bodies. The photo, taken from a nearby cliff, would travel the world and inspire 160 other groups to take similar actions, from New York skyscrapers to the Alaskan tundra.
When Betsy decided to invest in a charitable gift annuity, it only made sense to look for an organization whose values reflected her own. "My major thought in selecting AFSC was the long-term insistence on peace and nonviolence," she says. After setting up a charitable annuity for herself, she made additional arrangements for a family member. She feels better knowing he is provided for, and that eventually the remainder will be used in service to something she has always worked for: peace.