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Ruth Leathers: A Life of Volunteering

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Oct 13, 2015
by Alex Battalov, Mitchell Frank, and Arick Levandoski, UMD Writing 1120 students

Ruth Leathers is a seasoned veteran in the volunteering scene. Ruth is originally from Minneapolis, which is where she began her volunteer work over 25 years ago, but moved to Duluth for a job at The College of St Scholastica. She later worked at UMD for several years and retired from the College of Pharmacy, Duluth, about three years ago.

Ruth started her volunteer work by joining the boards of the Central America Resource Center and a community health clinic in Minneapolis. After realizing how rewarding her volunteering was, she decided that she wanted to continue to do something altruistic.  She wanted to get involved in mental health to help remove the negative stigma of mental illness; a big motivator for her was her brother who has schizophrenia.  After taking a class for families through the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), Ruth volunteered with NAMI Duluth Area, which she helped found about 6 years ago and continues to work with today. She also volunteered for the Family Resource Center at Amberwing Center for Youth and Family Well-Being, a local day treatment program for youth with mental health concerns.

 "It's the people that keep me going," says Ruth, "both my co-volunteers and the people we serve."

 Her longest volunteer experience is through a tax program funded by the IRS called the Vita Program. The program prepares taxes for low to mid income individuals, one goal being to help those who qualify apply for an Earned Income Credit refund. This credit often times goes unclaimed by many who may be eligible. Ruth has been working with this tax program for about eleven years now. One of her most memorable moments was when a customer was so excited about his refund he jumped up and hugged her. "It was so unexpected, but a really cool experience," she states.

When she's not busy contributing to the community, she spends time on several hobbies, including yoga, hiking and cross-country skiing. She also loves reading and spending quality time with her grandson.

 Her most recent volunteering opportunity came about two years ago, when she was asked to volunteer for the United Way of Greater Duluth. This organization looks to better people's lives by improving education, helping people achieve financial stability, and the overall promotion of healthy lives. She is found behind the scenes auditing donations.

 Ruth loves the volunteer work and she encourages others to do the same. "There is so much out there that can be done, you just have to find the right volunteer match for your personality and interests."