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Remembering Ruth Monroe

October 21, 2005

The passing of Ruth Monroe, the longtime director of Hagerstown's Memorial Recreation Center, is a tremendous loss for this community. For her, running the center and caring for several generations of children who frequented it was not just a job, but a calling.

Monroe served as the center's director for more than 20 years, acting as a surrogate grandmother to many youngsters who otherwise might have been left to their own devices on the streets.

During a December 2004 dinner held in her honor at the Martin Luther King Center, Monroe explained why, despite being slowed by illness, she continued to find inspiration in helping the children there.

"God puts you where He wants you to be. And He's put me where He wants me to be," she said.

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As the head of any nonprofit agency can tell you, there is more to running an organization than serving its clients. Money must be raised, volunteers recruited and a mountain of paperwork done to keep grants and other funding flowing. It is not as hands-on satisfying as playing a game with a child or helping youngsters with their homework, but it's a job that has to be done, for the children's sake.

But Monroe didn't just look out for the youngest members of her community. She also worked to see that many of them got to further their education through her work on the Martin Luther King Jr. Scholarship Committee. Some whose hands she held as toddlers were recipients of her kindness again when it was time to go to college.

At that 2004 dinner, Councilman Lewis Metzner suggested that when Hagerstown gets a hall of fame, Monroe should be one of its first inductees.

We agree. She devoted her life to the community's young people in a way that should be communicated to all of the children who will never get the chance to know her personally.

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