As of this writing, this candidate is in the process of retiring from the position of Social Work Specialist in the Knoxville-Knox County Community Action Committee's (CAC) Office on Aging program known as Project LIVE. She will readily tell you she is older than Moses and possibly dirt. She exceeds the minimum age requirement for the Covenant Platinum Award of sixty-five by twenty two years, turning 87 this August. LIVE is an acronym for Living Independently through Volunteers Efforts where case managers as well as volunteers assist seniors in Knox County to remain independent in their own homes.
Ironically, as a social worker, she is counseling clients far younger than she is. Through her motto that one must keep both her body and mind active, she has exemplified how to defy the typical stereotyping of the aging senior citizen. Ruth has had a long history of helping people. She got her masters degree in Social Work in 1951 and took only a few years off when her children were small.
She came to the Office on Aging in 1977 and has been an advocate for seniors ever since. She has worked tirelessly to develop services and programs to support seniors, first as Community Development and later as Project LIVE manger. She stepped down from that position in 1998 to work part-time so that she could fully enjoy her regime of early morning lap swimming and tennis matches. She will be the first to tell you that she was not particularly good at tennis but she enjoyed the game nonetheless.
During the past twenty-two years, she has been the Field Instructor for the University of Tennessee College of Social Work. She has mentored hundreds of undergraduate and master level social work student interns while they completed their field placement through the Project LIVE Program. The Project staff has long benefited from both her wisdom and insights and they continue to do so today. She has been an integral part of the program.
Many years ago Ruth formed the Low Vision Group that meets monthly. She recognized a need for low vision seniors, who were isolated due to their sight impairments, so she decided to get them together to discuss how they have adjusted to their own blindness. Fast friendships ensued and they were eager to participate in the monthly meetings. These meetings are still going on once a month today with the efforts of this candidate. Whether it is arranging for a speaker who just hiked the Appalachian Trail with his guide dog, or outings to hear the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra, to seasonal picnics, or even to dine in restaurants. She also arranges for volunteers to provide transportation to and from each client's home.
She personally holds membership with both the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra and the Knoxville Museum of Art and frequents theatrical presentation at the University of Tennessee and small theaters in the area often asking others to accompany her. She has been a long-standing member of a book club and hosts luncheons for some of their meetings.
Professionally she is a member of the National Association of Social Work and attends all of their monthly meetings. She continues to advocate for social justice among society as a whole and especially through the Knoxville Interfaith Network. She listens to National Public Radio, reads the "New Yorker" weekly, and reads the local newspaper on a daily basis. She not only voices her own opinions but educates others so that they too may get involved and perhaps make a positive difference in society.
She is well informed on local, state, national and world issues and often telephones, e-mails or writes letters to add her voice for support or opposition to the proper authorities or politicians involved. She encourages and assists citizens to apply for voting registration and, if needed, drives them to the polls to vote. After she finishes her New Yorker's she takes the back issues and other magazines to nursing homes. In a time of a technology revolution she has learned how to use a computer. She now writes her annual Christmas letter on the computer. In this letter she speaks not of herself so much but of social injustices and happenings in the year. It is a running commentary of where we are as a society from her point of view.
Roughly 22 years ago this candidate's church sponsored a family from Guatemala and she shared her home with them for seven years. Although Spanish is the official language in Guatemala it is not universally spoken among the indigenous population. Twenty-one distinct Mayan languages are spoken and this family used one. Their language for communication became Spanish and for each household member it was a second language.
Ruth started taking Spanish lessons once a week to improve her communication skills. She continues those lessons today. Once this family was on firmer footing they were able to find other housing but she still continues to tutor the now second grader. She will read to him and he to her. She has now included his younger brother and also reads to children in Lonsdale Elementary School. She is involved in their lives and has enjoyed outings to the park and library and even a trip to the zoo on the KAT bus.
On two occasions Ruth accompanied medical mission teams to Nicaragua and Guatemala, first through an Episcopal Church and then a Catholic Church, where she entertained children with games and reading stories while their parents received the medical help they needed. She continues to be active in her own church. Sunday mornings she can be found in the church kitchen taking on "coffee duty." She arranges coffee procurement through the free Trade Farmer's Co-op for the church. She actively attends and participates in the worship services and fund raising efforts. She will readily don any costume and play any part needed in church plays. She also frequently asks friends and acquaintances to accompany her to both church services and functions alike. She regularly invites church members and friends to her home and enjoys playing Charades, Scrabble and even poker with them.
It should not be a surprise that this educated, capable and fiercely independent woman raised three educated, capable and fiercely independent children. They enjoyed traveling as a foursome to Ireland two summers ago. She frequently travels to Boston, Chicago, Louisville, Atlanta, New Orleans, and Galveston by car, bus, rail or air to visit friends and family. She enjoys people and by any standard she enjoys living life to its fullest. She has had great influence in the lives of those who have the great pleasure of calling her a friend and colleague. It gives us great pleasure to nominate Ruth Martin for this year's Covenant Platinum Award.