Longtime Mobile Meals volunteer Vivian Ruden steps down
Thirty-six years later, Vivian Ruden still remembers the man’s face.
He was a clean-cut man, sort of quiet, living in the Clara Cox public housing community. Ruden, who was fairly new to town, had joined the Woman’s Club of High Point and had been assigned to deliver hot meals to individuals in that community via Mobile Meals for the Elderly.
“He was my favorite person to deliver to on my route,” Ruden recalls.
“I wondered why he was living there, but I never asked. The week before Christmas, we were supposed to ask the people on our route if they would be there Christmas week, so we would know how many meals we needed to have. So I asked this gentleman if he would be there, and he said, ‘I have nowhere to go.’”
The man’s response made a lasting impression on Ruden.
“That just broke my heart,” she says.
For 36 years, Ruden has remembered that man. He inspired her to stay involved with Mobile Meals, she says, because she knew she was doing a good thing.
This month, though — on her 86th birthday, in fact — Ruden resigned from the agency’s board of directors, stating the time had come for a change. She stopped making deliveries long ago, but she served as the organization’s treasurer for 33 years before stepping down.
“She is our biggest cheerleader and advocate in the community,” said Martha Mattocks, chairwoman of the Mobile Meals board. “She’s a wonderful ambassador for us. She lives and breathes Mobile Meals. She’s just a sweet, sweet lady and has meant so much to our board.”
Even in announcing her resignation, Ruden was careful to thank Furnitureland Rotary Club — which makes a large financial contribution to the agency every year — and other Mobile Meals supporters who have been faithful through the years.
“We’ve always had so much support from the community, and it’s been a tremendous boost for us,” Ruden said.
As for Ruden’s work with Mobile Meals, it all goes back to that clean-cut man she met in the Clara Cox community. After learning he had nowhere to go for Christmas, she brought him a small gift with his meal the week of Christmas. She also went home and talked to her children about how blessed their family was and how much they had to be thankful for.
“That was a rude awakening for me,” she said, “but that’s what you come across sometimes when you’re delivering meals. It’s a sad situation. Some of these people are not even able to come to the door to get their food. Sometimes you take it inside to them, and sometimes they have a box outside the front door for you to put it in.”
Ruden delivered meals for a while, but she became more known for serving on the organization’s board of directors and for serving as its treasurer. She says she never considered giving up her volunteer work for Mobile Meals before this year.
“This thing grows on you, whether you’re delivering meals or working behind the scenes,” Ruden said. “It’s a blessing from several different angles.”
And yes, she says she’s the one who’s been blessed.
“I’m just grateful I could do this for so long,” Ruden said. “It’s been a big, big, happy part of my life.”
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Mobile Meals, which is administered solely by volunteers and receives no government funding, was organized on Feb. 28, 1972.
More than 700 volunteers are involved with the delivery of meals to individuals in the city of High Point. Operating on an annual budget of more than $100,000, the agency delivers up to 165 meals a day on weekdays.
For more information, call the Mobile Meals hotline, 882-7676, and leave a message.