For Ruth Hendricks, feeding people isn’t just her life’s work — it’s her calling.
Ruth has owned and operated a diner called The Huddle in San Diego, California for most of her adult life. Back in 1989 Ruth met a customer who clearly wasn’t in good health. After talking with him she learned that he was one of more than 100,000 people living with AIDS at the height of the AIDS epidemic in the United States.
“(He) was very thin, looked kind of sick, and he told me he was living with AIDS,” Ruth recalled. The man’s name was Scott and he and Ruth formed a casual friendship as she fed him his lunch each day. On some days Scott was too weak to feed himself, and he confessed to his friend that most of the time the only time he ate was at Ruth’s diner.
“I just remembered him telling me, ‘Ms. Ruth, if I’m not here, I’m not eating,'” she explained. When Scott stopped showing up about 18 months later, Ruth knew in her heart that the worst had happened. She’d never thought to get Scott’s personal information so that she could reach out and see if he needed help at home.
“If I would have had the foresight, I could have asked him for his address or phone number,” she said. “I could have taken him food. I knew what he liked to eat.”
Ruth searched San Diego for her friend but never could track him down. It was then that she made up her mind to never let this situation repeat itself. From then on out she was determined not just to just feed the sick but to remember them. She started a non-profit organization called Special Delivery San Diego, a program that delivers Ruth’s home-cooked diner meals to people living with AIDS in her community.
Ruth recruited volunteers to help her mission and soon had 75 people who eagerly accepted her meals each day. In 1996 Ruth expanded her mission to include those living with chronic illnesses like cancer and kidney disease. The charity was soon able to purchase office space next to the diner to expand their efforts even further.
Special Delivery San Diego has been running ever since and now boasts over 6,000 chronically ill people served. They’ve cooked over a million meals to those who are too sick to leave their homes or make nutritious meals themselves. Not only does the service keep sick people healthier by providing three meals, five days a week, but the patrons also enjoy the company of the volunteers who deliver the food.
“I can’t cope on my own,” said Alden Steffens, a Special Delivery recipient who has been living with AIDS since 2008. “I can’t cook. I’m just drained. I probably would be dead if it wasn’t for Special Delivery and the food.”
“It’s a joy every day when they ring the bell,” Alden aided. “It’s instant healing, even if you were sick five minutes before. They smile and they treat you like a wonderful equal.”
Since starting the charity Ruth continues to find new ways to feed those less fortunate than herself. At the age of seventy-five she continues to run the diner, the meal service, and a food pantry that benefits 800 families a month. “I’d like to sound grandiose and say, ‘I’ll stop when there’s no more hunger in the world or there’s no more hunger in San Diego.’ But I’ll just keep going. I’m so enjoying this,” she said.
Ruth never requires financial compensation for her good work because she finds fulfillment in the very act of helping others. “It’s bringing that love, that respect, that dignity to them in their last days,” she explains. “At least they don’t have to worry about where the next meal’s coming from.”
Ruth saw a need in her community and rose to the occasion. She’s a wonderful example of the way we should all be living; always keeping an eye open for ways that we can be useful and help those around us. The world needs more people like Ruth!
Watch the video below to learn more about Ruth’s charitable work, and don’t forget to share.
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