For Ruth Davis, it all started with a giant birthday bash.
When she heard about Home of Hope through a golf friend, Ruth decided it sounded like a great way to celebrate and give back.
“At our milestone birthday party, my friends and I decided to have Home of Hope as the beneficiary of gifts — versus getting us gifts,” explained Ruth. “Not long after that, I met Maureen. We started chatting. I started volunteering at the shelter once a month, and it just evolved from there.”
That was in 2016.
Today, Ruth serves as both a regular volunteer and board member — roles she calls both inspiring and eye-opening.
“Homelessness is behind the scenes. You don’t always notice it. I never looked at Walmart to see if someone was sleeping in their car, but I do now,” she said. “Understanding that this is going on in our county and the percentage of homeless people who are children is just astounding. All we see in our little blinders is our own world. But there are people out there who are showering wherever they can find it. Their kids are living in the car.”
The rewarding part? Connecting with moms experiencing homelessness.
“When I started volunteering and hearing the stories from these lovely ladies and what happened to them and how they’re trying to get back on their feet, it was just moving and inspiring to me,” she said.
Ruth teaches monthly classes for Home of Hope moms, helping them develop confidence, sharpen job skills, create goals and more.
“I can tell when a mom just got there. They’re broken, beaten down. They’re looking for hope,” she explained. “The next month when they come, they’re sitting up. The shoulders are back. They’re speaking up in class. There’s just a whole different manner about them. It’s just confidence. They appreciate the advice and leadership. They want to get out and be on their own and support their children. I see them seeing a light at the end of the tunnel.”
Even through the short time she’s with these moms, Ruth said she loves being able to see them find their way.
“One girl said: ‘Growing up my mom told me that I would never amount to anything.’” Ruth said. “[But then] I see them start to think: ‘I have another option, another opportunity.’ I see them start to shine. Like that girl – she was in a safe place where she could work out of that mentality. That’s just the biggest gift in the whole wide world.”
And that’s the special part of it for Ruth — serving in a hands-on way, seeing the impact in real-time.
“I was looking for a charity in our area where I could really see the benefits of what we were doing. Here, especially when I started volunteering, I could see how the money and time I gave benefits people. It was just inspiring to me,” she said.
For Ruth, a step-mom to two grown children and grandma to four, it’s also one way to serve a community she loves.
“I got involved because I felt that was my way to give back,” she said. “It was my way to say thank you to our community. We’re very blessed.”
As far as the future goes, Ruth said she’d love to see Home of Hope grow both in its services and its volunteer base.
“I would love to see us be able to serve more families,” she added. “I would love to see us do more outreach with more volunteers, just get the message out about homelessness.”
After all, it can be easy to miss the signs of homelessness happening in the community.
“I never knew the extent of homelessness in Gwinnett County. We see what’s happening in our own world and we don’t realize everything else that’s going on around us,” she said. “And once you see it, how can you not be aware of it and be involved?”