Ruth Buchanan at work in the bookstore at the Seminole Public Library.
SEMINOLE – It has been said it takes a special kind of person to selflessly help others. By all accounts Ruth Buchanan of Seminole is one of those special people. She has been volunteering for years and doesn’t let the fact that she will soon be 85 years old slow her down at all.
“I just want to give back,” she said. “Seminole has been real good to me and the people who live here. I needed something to do and in doing it if I could help other people then so much the better.”
Buchanan doesn’t just volunteer at one thing, she’s involved in several areas. She’s a driver for the Tampa Bay Harvest Food Bank, she works regularly at the Seminole Library and she is active in many things in Seminole Gardens where she lives.
Buchanan was born in New Hampshire and grew up in Michigan. She had three children, one of whom was killed in an accident some years ago. The other two both live in Michigan. She moved to Florida in 1979 and that is when she began her volunteer work.
“I started doing volunteer work with Tampa Bay Harvest many years ago,” she said. “I saw an ad in the paper that they needed drivers to pick up food, so I contacted them and they took me on.”
Her main pickup was at the bakery in the Seminole Mall. When that closed, she took a break but then they called her again.
“Six years ago they called and asked me to pick up food from the Publix in Bardmoor,” she said. “The people there are very friendly. I bring that food to the community center in Ridgecrest in Largo.”
Nancy Francis works with the Neighborhood Care Network, which rents space for a dining room at the Greater Ridgecrest Community Center. She has been working with Buchanan for years and has high praise for her.
“Ruth is an angel, she’s been doing this for a long time,” Francis said. “It was my original duty to pick up the food and one day I asked Ruth if she could help me. Well, it turns out she is doing it all. She is picking up everything. She is a special kind of person.”
Francis says Ruth is special because she and people like her manage to keep the charity going.
“If it weren’t for Tampa Bay Harvest a lot of people would go hungry,” she said. “We send food home to seniors, people who have an income of only $400 a month. People like Ruth play a big part.”
For Buchanan, helping is something she can’t resist when she sees what is going on around her.
“There are so many children who have to go to bed hungry,” she said. “I just don’t understand. We do the best we can. You can’t help everybody but you can try to help as many as you can.”
The Seminole Library takes up several hours of Buchanan’s time every week. She specifically works in the Friends of the Library bookstore, taking in inventory and selling used books to raise money for the facility.
Gloria Douglas, a circulation clerk at the library, has worked with Buchanan for years and like Francis at Ridgecrest, says Ruth is a special kind of person.
“She is dedicated to what she does,” said Douglas. “She is friendly, considerate and is a popular person. She has been doing this a long time.”
Douglas says volunteers are very important to the operation of the library. She said the city estimates that volunteers save the library $78,000 a year.
“We’re a team and we always need team members. This is a pleasant place to work,” she said. “It takes talent to be a good volunteer and Ruth has it.”
How then did Buchanan get to be such a robust person and one who never stops helping others? It probably has to do with her lifestyle.
“I’ve always worked crazy hours, all my life,” she said. “I go to the gym every day at the Seminole Rec Hall. I do the treadmill and lift weights. I don’t know, I feel good, so why not? I live in a second-story condo with no elevator so I walk up and down there several times a day.”
Buchanan will be 85 on Jan. 18. She says people can’t believe her age just by looking at her.
“I’m very lucky,” she said. “I feel good and even my doctor can’t believe it. He says, ‘wow.’ Even when I went to get my flu shot, the pharmacist noted my muscles. She said it was like someone who lifts weights. I try to keep in shape. I play cards twice a week, I keep busy.”
She quickly answers when asked for advice for other elderly people to get them up and about.
“Attitude has a lot to do with well being. Getting started is the toughest part,” Ruth said.
As for the future, Buchanan says she has no plans to slow down anytime soon.
“I’m going to continue until I can’t do it anymore,” she said. “I just enjoy it, you get out there and meet people and they are all nice.”