I recently received word that Ruth Helling passed away last Tuesday. Ruth and her husband Ken (who passed away this time last year) served as LWR Key Leaders for 32 years, organizing the twice-a-year Pacific Northwest Ingathering. It’s impossible to estimate just how many Quilts and Kits they played a hand in collecting for LWR — certainly millions of dollars’ worth over that many years. They became known as the “Samaritans from Seattle” when LWR featured them in a video by that name about their service as Key Leaders.
Ruth participated in a couple of LWR’s earliest Study Visits and got to meet Mother Teresa when traveling with LWR in India (see the unfortunately blurry photo above). Ruth’s personal goal was to make 52 Quilts a year — one a week — and continued with that until her eyesight began failing. When I visited Ken and Ruth in 2005, their basement was completely dedicated to their LWR work. Ruth’s Quilts were stacked in the corners and she had a 4-drawer filing cabinet brimming with every LWR publication dating at least as far back as the early 1970s.
The September 2006 issue of the LWR newsletter featured an article I wrote about the Hellings when they retired. We were fortunate to get a photo from them of their first Ingathering in 1974 to use with the story. It’s a nice salt-of-the-earth Lutherans story if you’ve got a few minutes to give it a read.