LUTHER — Nobody does charity like Ruby Stahl.
It's 9:30 on a Thursday morning and old cars, pickups and vans are lined up for a block in Luther.
Bounding from one vehicle to the next is Stahl, a 75-year-old dynamo with a gift for gab.
"I've been doing this for 23 years," said Stahl, who spearheads charity food distribution efforts in this Route 66 community of about 1,200, about 20 miles northeast of Oklahoma City.
"I like to tell people I make a six-digit salary — they're all zeros."
The other 17 to 25 volunteers who help distribute food at Luther Community Service Center make the same salary Stahl does.
That doesn't stop them from handing out smiles and jokes by the bushel.
Their playful banter comes right back to them from Luther residents receiving the food.
As the cars and pickups drive through, volunteers load each with two big boxes of food, a jug of
Food for a month
The boxes each family receives are carefully packaged to contain enough food to last one person 30 days. Extra items such as produce are thrown in when available.
"We provide curbside service," Stahl said.
Treating people with dignity is one reason Stahl believes in providing
She also knows it is difficult for some of the older and disabled people to get around, so she wants to make it as easy as possible for them.
"Tell this man what a mean old woman I am," Stahl shouted out to Lila McCright as she drove up.
"I'm telling it like it is," McCright shouted back. "I'm telling him how
"She's a blessing," McCright whispered, as soon as Stahl was out of earshot.
McCright said her husband suffered a stroke
"My children play in the band," McCright said, "and we didn't have enough money to buy instruments. Ruby got them band instruments."
And there was the time McCright's dryer broke down.
"Ruby said, 'Come by on Monday.' I did and she had a dryer for me."
Sue Marshall, 30, can top that story.
Marshall said she was 9 months pregnant when Stahl came up to her and told her she and her man ought to get married.
Marshall told her they didn't have the money to do so.
The next thing she knew, Stahl was putting on a fabulous wedding for them. They've been married 11 years now and have four children.
Stahl said a lady who attended the wedding visited with her later.
"The woman said she paid $10,000 for her wedding," Stahl said. "She said ours was nicer."
Everyone in the line of vehicles seemed to have a story about how Stahl had helped them obtain free furniture and clothing in times of need.
In addition to the food distribution effort, Stahl and other volunteers operate a charity store that is open for a few hours two days a week so needy families can come by and get free used clothing.
Stahl and her host of volunteers also provide Easter baskets to about 300 children and make sure children in the community receive new clothes and other items at a Christmas dinner. Last year, 347 kids received Christmas gifts through their efforts.
Stahl, a member of the Church of Christ, said churchgoers and the government help provide some of the food and other items that are handed out. She refuses to say much more about the origin of donations.
"I don't tell my
"I beg a lot. I'm real good at it," she said.
Another thing she's good at is organization.
Luther families needing assistance are required to have a local mailing address and fill out a form showing their financial need.
She said 160 families qualify for assistance. She has them divided into four groups of 40, with each group assigned a different Thursday during the month to pick up food
The principal brings a group of middle-school students over on Mondays to help assemble the food boxes. Volunteers show up at 7:30 a.m. Thursdays to finish preparations, she said. People have donated the use of buildings around town for storage.
Volunteers are trying to expand the building where food and used clothing are distributed.
"We need $24,000 if you know anybody who could help us with that," Stahl said.
She's also a little worried about Thanksgiving.
"It's been a tough year," she said. "Thanksgiving is coming up, and this is the first year I don't already have the food set aside. "
That's just one more task for Stahl and her volunteers who routinely
"This place has been like a saving grace for us," McCright said. "It's not just the food and the clothing. It's the prayers.
"The people make you feel at ease when you come down here and, to me, that's important."
HOW TO HELP: Luther Community Service Center volunteers are accepting donations to aid with the expansion of their building and other charitable efforts. Checks can be made out to the Luther Community Service Center, P.O. Box 321, Luther, OK, 73054.