California Diner Owner Cooks And Delivers Over One Million Meals To Folks Too Sick To Leave Home

Ruth Hendricks is a woman from San Diego, California who has always felt that feeding people was her calling in life.

Ruth has owned and operated The Huddle diner for decades, and back in 1989, she met a customer who was clearly very sick. The man told Ruth that he was living with AIDs, as it was the height of the epidemic at the time.

“(He) was very thin, looked kind of sick, and he told me he was living with AIDS,” Ruth recalled, adding that the man was named Scott and that they soon became friends, with him coming in for lunch each day. Some days, Scott was too weak to leave home to come to the diner, and Ruth soon learned that he did not eat at all on those days.

“I just remembered him telling me, ‘Ms. Ruth, if I’m not here, I’m not eating,’” Ruth said. When Scott stopped showing up after 18 months, Ruth knew the worst had happened, and she regretted never getting his personal information so she could check up on him.

“If I would have had the foresight, I could have asked him for his address or phone number,” Ruth said.  “I could have taken him food. I knew what he liked to eat.”

It was then that Ruth promised herself that she would never let this happen again. Not only would she make feeding the sick her life’s work, she would always REMEMBER them. Since then, Ruth has started a non-profit organization called Special Delivery San Diego, which delivers her home-cooked diner meals to people living with AIDS in her community.

Ruth expanded her mission in 1996 to include chronic illnesses like cancer and kidney disease. She also opened an office space next to the diner so that her non-profit can get even bigger and help more people.

Since then, Special Delivery San Diego has cooked over one million meals for over six thousand sick people.

“I can’t cope on my own,” said Alden Steffens, a Special Delivery recipient who has had AIDS since 2008. “I can’t cook. I’m just drained. I probably would be dead if it wasn’t for Special Delivery and the food.”

“It’s a joy every day when they ring the bell,” he added. “It’s instant healing, even if you were sick five minutes before. They smile and they treat you like a wonderful equal.”

Ruth is now 75 years-old, but she still runs her diner and non-profit as well as a food pantry that helps eight hundred families a month.

“I’d like to sound grandiose and say, ‘I’ll stop when there’s no more hunger in the world or there’s no more hunger in San Diego.’ But I’ll just keep going. I’m so enjoying this,” she said.

Ruth has refused any compensation for her food, saying that the love she receives in return is rewarding enough.

“It’s bringing that love, that respect, that dignity to them in their last days,” she explained. “At least they don’t have to worry about where the next meal’s coming from.”

Find out more about Ruth’s mission in the video below.

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