My greatest joy at the Christmas season is not receiving, but giving to others—to my grandchildren, to friends and to those who don’t have the resources to enjoy the blessings that I enjoy. While I am thankful to be able to help others all year around, helping persons in need in our community at Christmas is especially heart warming. Seeing the smiles on the faces of parents, who would not be able to purchase gifts for their children without help, is such a precious moment.
I have been fortunate since I was young to be surrounded by giving persons who have inspired me to do all I can for others. One of the people who had a great influence on me was Ruth Russell. Ms. Russell, who lived in the Waynedale area, sadly passed from this earth on November 16 at the age of 93.
“Aunt Ruth” devoted her life to bettering the lives of others. I refer to her as “Aunt Ruth” because she was one of my mother’s and my aunt’s best friends and because my mother made sure “Aunt Ruth” was part of my life. In her early years, Ms. Russell was a sought after orator, and gave me instruction in public speaking. My mother felt it would serve me well to learn from a person whose acclaim was as far-reaching as Ruth Russell.
Ms. Russell was always involved in community organizations and, statewide affiliations were common to her too. It was not unusual for her to rub shoulders with friends and acquaintances at the national level. Ms. Russell never had children herself; yet, she nurtured the lives of youth just like a mother. She was a legend in the volunteer community, winning numerous volunteer awards dating back to the 1980s. Several years ago, she even was recognized nationally for her volunteer work.
One of the joys I have had as Wayne Township Trustee was to work with “Aunt Ruth” through our food bank. She was instrumental in establishing the food bank at the Wayne Township Trustee’s Office many years ago, along with then Trustee Thomas Essex, then Director of the Department Public Welfare Joan Uebelhoer and the Associated Churches. Ms. Russell was the very first volunteer at the Wayne Township food bank, and remained involved in the food bank throughout the rest of her life.
Ms. Russell demonstrated her great dedication to the food bank at the Trustee’s Office by visiting us in 2008 when she was 90 years old. She recalled then that the purpose of establishing the food bank at the Trustee’s Office was to give clients a temporary food supply while they were awaiting receiving food stamps or other types of assistance. The food bank at Wayne Township still serves much the same purpose as it did when it began.
Toward the end of her life, Ms. Russell couldn’t get out often due to physical problems, but she never quit volunteering. She continued to help people by doing volunteer work from her home, including making phone calls to schedule volunteers for our food bank. When she passed, she left a great legacy of volunteering that will be difficult to equal.
I take great pleasure in knowing that Ms. Russell’s contribution to humanity started and ended in Wayne Township. I will forever owe so much gratitude to her. I will never forget her words of guidance. And, now that they have ended, it is up to me to keep her words in practice. God gave us one of his best in Ruth Russell in order to bring out the best in us.
Ms. Russell was remembered at services at 1 p.m., November 21, at Covington Memorial Funeral Home. She was entombed at Covington Memorial Gardens.
Richard A. Stevenson, Sr.
Wayne Township Trustee
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