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Ruth with volunteers

Remembering Ruth

Posted on April 14, 2023

Remembering Ruth:

You’re never too old to volunteer! Ruth Gresham started volunteering with Fox Cities Habitat in 2000 at the young age of 83. That year was Fox Cities Habitat’s very first Women Build. Our Women Build connects the incredible power of women as they come together to build safer, stronger, communities and to raise funds to advance the critical call for affordable housing in our community. Ruth thought that would be a great outlet for her to get out and try something new, so she signed up to volunteer on the construction build.

Supporting Women Build

Our very first Women Build happened to be a blitz build – over 400 female volunteers worked 12+ hours every day building this home and completed in seven days what typically takes several months!

This was quite an adventure for Ruth and the other volunteers working the inaugural Women Build. Ruth said everyone was very grateful for the meal donors that made sure all the workers had coffee, breakfast, lunch, and dinner provided every day.

Ruth and Zorica volunteering together

Memories from Jodi

Director of Volunteer Services, Jodi Isom, shared a memory of when she first met Ruth. When Jodi started at Habitat, Ruth had already worked on two Women Build projects and was working on her third build in 2002. “Back then, our Women Build was a blitz, building the home with only female volunteers over seven days with two volunteer shifts each day. I was a newbie to Women Build and Ruth had been an experienced site host for the first two Women Builds. I visited the site and Ruth took me on a tour and showed me all the processes and procedures of keeping a blitz build in order. She’s an incredible lady with tremendous organizational skills. I’ve always been impressed with her volunteer talents and how much she has given to Habitat and our community. She’s amazing!  We are so grateful for her ongoing support and help.”


Ruth’s Impact

Ruth enjoyed supporting the Women Build so much that she continued to send financial donations towards the Women Build annually for the last 22 years. Her latest donation had a personal note attached, which prompted our Director of Development, Amy McGowan, to plan a visit to thank her in person. Amy, Ariana Herbst, Donor Relations Manager; and Angie Demers, Construction Volunteer Coordinator, planned a short visit to the care center and hand-delivered a plaque, along with this year’s Women Build t-shirt, to thank Ruth for over 20 years of support. Ruth was so touched that she was being recognized and celebrated at age 106-1/2 (“make sure you get that half!” she said).

Ruth told us stories about her youth and how they “didn’t live high on the hog, ate a lot of hot dogs, but put money aside.” She shared some words of wisdom with us, and said “If you just let yourself go, you can have some adventures!” She told us about her travels, and when her son mentioned how much she loved to travel, he asked her if she rode a camel or an elephant, to which she laughed and replied, “both!” Ruth had quite a few stories to share – and showed us a picture of when she got to meet Former President Jimmy Carter and his wife Rosalynn. She also supported of several other women-related organizations like the Girl Scouts, Education (with a female focus), and Harbor House. She was quite the woman of adventure!

Habitat staff visiting with Ruth

Ruth recently passed away at the amazing age of 106-1/2 (don’t worry, I didn’t forget the half!). Her family sent a heart-felt card to let us know of her passing, and in the words of her family, “Ruth was a devoted volunteer to not only Habitat, but also other organizations and schools in Appleton. She always encouraged others to volunteer for organizations they had a passion for. Growing up as the oldest of seven siblings during the Depression Era, Ruth developed a strong sense of independence and a can do attitude. Those traits helped to frame her interest in Habitat for Humanity and specifically the Women Build.”

YOU can make a difference!

Ruth’s story is proof that you’re never too old to volunteer, and no donation is too small. You can always make a difference. If you’d like to get involved in volunteering or contributing financially, please click the buttons below. YOU can make a difference!

Author: Angie Demers