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Ruth and Regency #TeamUp


Written by Wendy Meyer, Regency Director of Life Enrichment

Have you ever met someone that left you speechless? Speechless in a way that makes your heart burn and your eyes water? Speechless in a way that makes you want to be a better person? I am fortunate enough to say I have met such a person, and she lives right here at Regency! Ruth has been an independent resident at our New Berlin campus for more than seven years.

Before I share this beautiful story, I would like to introduce myself. My name is Wendy Meyer; I am the Director of the Life Enrichment Department at the Regency Senior Communities. About six months ago, Ruth came strolling down the lower-level hallway towards my office. It was about 7 p.m. and the halls were empty.

I looked up from my desk and saw her. I said, “Hello, can I help you?”

Ruth replied, with a 'don’t-bother-me-I-have-a-job-to-do' tone, “I am checking the break room.”

My face must have given away my confusion. I thought, who is Ruth, and why is she checking our break room?

She raised her voice and replied to my confusion, “You don’t know who I am? I'm Ruth. You know...’The Can Lady.’” She then smirked at me to further show her bemusement at my confusion. She asked if I had a minute and parked her walker.

“I have collected one million cans and raised $75,000 for a variety of local charities. And now, I'm collecting can tabs to help sick children and their families.”

She explained to me that the money collected after handing in the can tabs help pay for families to stay at the Ronald McDonald House near Children’s Hospital.

“It’s important that kids can have their families nearby. You see, I was an orphan. As a child, I moved every few months and had many different “families”. Some were good to me; some were not. One family locked the fridge on me, one family made me work until I passed out, and one family downright abused me...

Ruth looks down and shakes her head as she remembers the hunger, the pain and the long nights. 

"I spent many years desperately wanting and waiting to find a forever home. Holidays were tough. My birthday was tough. I remember wishing I knew who my family was.

She again shakes her head and looks down and then looks back at me with a determined smile.

"I decided that I didn’t want others to feel like I did. I wanted to help in any way I can. So here I am – 91 years old, and I am still at it. The cans are too heavy now, and I am tired of the mess, so I decided to collect tabs instead!”

“Ruth, why don’t you just put your feet up and relax? I think you did your fair share in helping give back.”

“I still have the ability to help people. I can walk. I can count. Why would I quit now? Plus, I love to count! I have been counting for years – at my old job, as a mail clerk for Milwaukee County, I counted every letter that passed through my hands! Over 8 million pieces of mail!”

I thought to myself, she loves to count? Who loves to count?

Ruth shared a few more memories with me and a new friendship blossomed. I asked her to come back and see me again.

That evening, I drove home in silence. I was speechless. And for those who know me, I am never speechless! All I could think about was Ruth. How does she do it? How does someone who has struggled with so much pain and loneliness find it in their hearts to give back? A few days later, Ruth came back to see me. I asked her to tell me more.

“Well, I have been collecting tabs now for a while and I have around 250,000.”

“What! Wow Ruth! That’s a lot!”

Ruth shrugs. “Yea, it’s ok.”

“What do you mean, it's ok? That’s incredible! Wait Ruth – how long would it take to collect ONE MILLION can tabs?”

Ruth shrugs again. “Maybe a few years.

My mind starts spinning! “A few years? What! No way! Let’s do this! Let’s join forces! We will collect the tabs and you can count them! You will be the One Million Can Tab Lady!”

We had a great laugh and our partnership was forged! With her sweet, beautiful smile, she turned around and went on her way.

Again, I drove home speechless and thought – why not? Ruth says, "It's about what you give, not what you get back." Let's #TeamUp and collect one million (#1M) can tabs! You'll not only help Ruth reach her goal, but you'll directly help sick children and their families. It’s a win-win!

Helping out is easy. Just start saving those little aluminum tabs from soda cans, flavored water, soup cans, pet food...any kind of aluminum tab you can find. You can drop off your collection bag at any Regency location. Feel free to write your name on the bag so we can recognize all donors. 

Follow us on Facebook for monthly updates from Ruth! Please email or call 262-290-8385 with any questions! 

Please share this story with everyone you know!