You might say that employees at The Salvation Army are driven by faith. For Ruth Stoel, Associate Director, Planned Giving, this couldn’t be more true. “Lord, send me a husband - I can’t start the lawn mower!” she said after going through a divorce. Well, the Lord answered her prayers, and she has been happily married to husband Bill for the past 40 years.
I had the opportunity recently to meet with this amazing woman to learn more about her. When Ruth retired at age 63 as a bank executive, she let her faith guide her to a second career at The Salvation Army so she could help people. That was 20 years ago and she is still going strong.
Always full of energy, Ruth went on a mission trip to Kenya at age 79 with other Salvation Army coworkers. For two weeks, she cleaned and painted a village church and helped women and children at the Salvation Army Corps there. The village women were poverty-stricken and the children were orphaned or abandoned. She was happy to help them and show them the meaning of caring.
Ruth’s job is to help raise funds for The Salvation Army. As you may have guessed, she is one of the best. Her secret? “I never ask for money,” she says. “Instead, I show people how their dollars help. I take them out to our camp to see all of the wonderful programs for our kids; I take them out on our Bed and Bread trucks to feed the hungry. When they see the need, they help.”
In her early years at the Salvation Army, she was helping with programs at summer camp at Echo Grove. The camp leader became ill suddenly and asked Ruth to step up and keep the programs running. “If I’m asked, I do it,” she said. “You have to take chances and you will rise to the occasion.” She follows that philosophy today and says, “If you know me, you may find yourself volunteering with me.” Inspired by her passion, her family, friends and neighbors all help and volunteer when needed – at camp, making scarves, quilts or lunch bags for the needy, or running activities for the Sunbeams, the Salvation Army’s version of Brownie’s.
Everyone has a personal passion and wants to help in a way that follows that passion. Ruth once took a woman artist on a tour of The Salvation Army’s Echo Grove Camp. Inspired by a chance to follow her passion for art and help kids, the woman donated funds and designed a creative center for the camp so that kids could express themselves through arts and crafts. Hundreds of kids now enjoy the center at camp each summer.
As for Ruth’s personal passion? That would be music. Ruth plays the cornet (a shorter version of the trumpet) and teaches beginning music theory at camp. She may sit in the last chair at camp, but knows she is a part of something bigger. As if one instrument isn’t enough, she plans to learn to play the piano and collects miniature pianos at home.
“I’ve been blessed,” Ruth says. And, so have we.