By Dayna Kerecman Myers
When Ruth Storek finished donating blood at Stanford Blood Center (SBC) one day, she looked down at the table in the canteen and noticed an appeal for volunteers printed on her paper placemat. She answered the call, and became one of SBC’s most devoted volunteers. Now, every Friday like clockwork Ruth helps out at the Menlo Park Center. (Luckily for SBC, Ruth, a Menlo Park resident, was delighted when SBC’s old Campus center moved to Menlo Park.)
Ruth, who just celebrated her 92nd birthday, was born and raised in New York, in a little town called Owego on the Susquehanna River. Ruth’s parents moved their family to California in 1939, and she commented that she didn’t realize what a daring move that was for a large Depression-era family until she was a parent, too. But she’s glad he did. She ended up putting down roots in the Peninsula, eventually marrying and starting a family of her own here.
She credits her husband, who passed away in 2001, with inspiring her to become a blood donor. Once she learned about SBC, she never looked back. She openly confesses that SBC’s comfortable reclining chairs played a role in this. Now, although she no longer donates herself, she inspires others, including her daughter, to donate. She also spreads the word about the benefits of volunteering for SBC.
At church one day about eight years ago, her friend Stella Mead remarked to Ruth that she had just retired from her job handling customer service for Varian Medical Systems and she just didn’t know what to do with her time. Ruth, of course, had a ready answer. Thanks to that conversation, Stanford Blood Center gained another great volunteer.
Stella moved to Palo Alto from Chicago about 20 years ago, after her son went to Stanford for medical school (he is now a local cardiologist). Her son and daughter-in-law now make an important contribution to SBC, too — by giving Stella rides to and from her volunteer shifts.
Stella likes volunteering in the canteen, helping to make sure donors have friendly support and enough of the favored chocolate-chip cookies during their 15 minutes of post-donation rest. Although she is 90, she doesn’t shy away from working the busiest shift, either — Movie Ticket Madness every Monday at the Palo Alto center.
Ruth and Stella are both committed to SBC because they believe in the mission, but they also enjoy getting to know the donors. Stella admires the many donors who donate every eight weeks on the dot. Ruth remembers a gentleman from the Yosemite area whose wife underwent treatment for cancer at Stanford. He became a regular donor despite the long drive — not only making the trek to donate, but bringing two other donors with him.
Ruth notes that some people prefer to catch up on their e-mail or reading during their post-donation rest, but if someone seems interested in chatting she asks about their plans for the rest of day. With that simple question, she learns fascinating details about the blood donors — like the man who was heading home one day to build a grandfather clock for a fundraiser. She also picks up good recommendations for books, movies, and recipes.
Ruth also helps to keep an eye out for new recruits. When some of the regular donors bypass her and get their own juice, she jokes, “Hey, you’re taking my job! You’d make a great volunteer.”