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Pay it forward

Parkville woman finds happiness in helping others

Created date

August 21st, 2012

There are plenty of honey bees that can t hold a candle to Ruth Pundt. The busy 78-year-old Maryland Insurance Administration retiree turned full-time volunteer gives people half her age a run for their money. But no matter how busy she gets, Ruth always has time to lend a helping hand. Helping people gives me a really good feeling, says Ruth, who lives at Oak Crest, an Erickson Living community in Parkville, Md. The Lord has been good to me, and I like to give back to thank him. My grandmother was very religious, and I went to church with her all the time. She would read the Bible to me, and I was singing hymns before I could even read. It really made a big impression in my life. Sixteen years ago, Ruth brought her endless energy to Oak Crest, where she has logged more than 7,100 volunteer hours since 1997. She is involved in almost everything I can think of, says Oak Crest Volunteer Coordinator Alison Krull. Sometimes, I think she is busier than I am throughout the course of a day. Yet, she is always so upbeat and pleasant. She never complains about her plate being full. In fact, if you talk to her, she will probably make it seem as though she isn t involved in that much.


A lifelong volunteer, Ruth has spent most of her free time helping out at her church or area soup kitchens, food pantries, and hospitals. Today, she helps make casseroles for Our Daily Bread to feed the homeless in Baltimore City; makes peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for the Maryland Food Bank; and sorts items for the Oak Crest Treasure Chest, an on-site flea market whose proceeds support various groups and causes within the Oak Crest community. As chairman of the Oak Crest media arts club, Ruth provides support to annual events such as the July Fourth celebration, Halloween costume contest, and Easter hat show by procuring prizes, scheduling entertainment, and decorating for special events. She admits keeping track of all her daily activities can be challenging, so she s developed a foolproof system and it doesn t involve day planners or smart phones. I keep a pile of papers on my dining room table with all of the events and activities I m involved in for that day, and I just remove each one as I complete them, says Ruth. There s a good chance if you don t see Ruth zipping through the halls at Oak Crest, you re bound to catch her on the community s TV channel WOCV-TV, where she hosts popular shows like Getting to Know You,Baby Love, and the long-running monthly program Zoomobile, which showcases animals from the Maryland Zoo, in Baltimore. I know a lot of the people at the TV studio, says Ruth. They know I am an animal lover and asked if I would be interested in hosting a show about animals, with one warning I would have to be comfortable being around snakes, crocodiles, and a variety of different kinds of animals. So of course I said I would love to! There s nothing that I m afraid to touch other than a poisonous snake but they don t bring those. Off-screen, Ruth chairs Oak Crest s recycling plus committee, which helps implement green practices throughout the campus, including recycling, an annual Earth Day celebration, and a green roof, which features a roof-top garden to reduce storm water runoff and lower cooling costs. Going green and recycling are multigenerational endeavors, says Ruth. They re too important to be limited to just the young. We should do our part, and that s why residents at Oak Crest are so involved.

Helper s high

On any given Sunday, Ruth volunteers with Protestant worship services at Oak Crest s continuing care neighborhood. There, she escorts residents to and from worship services, helps hand out communion, and, afterward, visits with residents until late in the evening. If you ever have a bad day or feel bad about something, just help someone else and you ll always feel better about yourself, says Ruth, who, along with Santa, personally delivers gifts to those same residents during the holidays. Ironically, Ruth says all of theother people who live and work at Oak Crest make it such a wonderful place to live. I m very happy living here. It s a lovely place, she says. The residents are what make Oak Crest such a great place. They re all very nice people. And the staff is like family. I don t think there s any other place like it.