Church Women United honors four outstanding individuals for selfless acts of kindness, acceptance, and inclusion
The 2021 Human Rights Award Recipients are: Ruth Via who has championed human rights through her ministry to inmates in our local jail for the past 30 years. Prior to the pandemic, every Wednesday Ruth taught Bible study to female inmates for the ultimate purpose of leading them to Christ. She said that she realized that many people who end up in prison grew up in environments that were different from hers. Most did not come from homes where Christian principles were taught and lived. She credited her ministry to inmates with helping her to grow stronger in her faith and closer to God. Her greatest joy is having persons accepting Christ and desiring to be baptized and has witnessed lives being transformed through the countless baptisms she has performed.
Ruth began volunteering in the jail each week while she was working full-time and raising two young children. Her faith in God is unshakable. She persisted in sharing the Gospel of Christ through the storms and tragedies in her life. Ruth lost her dear husband 19 years ago due to an accident and several years later she lost her son, her first born. Ruth is a devoted believer in Jesus Christ and when you meet her, you know instantly to whom she belongs.
Beth Woodrum started LovABLE SERVICES, a non-profit job training company with the mission to make a positive change in a person’s life, specifically persons in the special abilities community. Beth is the mother of Chris, a young man with Down Syndrome. She, along with her husband and Chris, opened Chris’s Coffee and Custard on 9th Street in Roanoke at the end of 2020. Chris’ is the job training site for LovABLE SERVICES, where young adults with special skills and abilities receive life, social, and job skills training. Beth is a passionate advocate for the value, inclusion and acceptance of people with intellectual, developmental, and physical disabilities. Not only does Chris’s Coffee and Custard show persons with special abilities that they deserve the same opportunities as other people in our community, but they also serve up an awesome menu of delicious beverages, foods, and sweets! At a previous time Beth was an on-call nurse and volunteer pet therapist for Good Samaritan Hospice.
Annalecia Dodson is another very special young lady who cares more about helping others than helping herself. In 2018 when she was 7 years old and began making hand-designed greeting cards to raise money to help children especially but also anyone in need within our community. She hand makes cards for all occasions (birthday, get well, thinking of you, Christmas, Easter) etc. and sells them for $2 apiece. To date Annalecia has raised approximately $550 to help Blue Ridge Women’s Center, Salvation Army, CHIP, and the Franklin County Humane Society. With the money raised she has purchased items to donate diapers, wipes, baby bottles, nursing items for mothers, formula, blankets, crib sheets, pacifiers, clothes, baby bibs, baby slings, gloves, hats, and dog food. Annalecia is in the 5th grade at Clearbrook Elementary and a member of First Church of the Brethren. She is always looking for ways to help people – clearly the Light of Jesus shines through her!
Jennie Waering, a retired Federal Prosecutor, continues her fight for justice. Since her retirement she has become a voice for racial justice in her church, Central Church of the Brethren, and the religious community. Her long-term interest in racial justice was reignited when she read “Root Shock” which chronicles the destruction of Roanoke’s Gainsboro community. This started her on a journey of self-education on racial injustice, especially as it related to the church and the Roanoke Valley. Her strong belief in the power of knowledge led her to seek out educational opportunities, which included speakers, book studies, and related programs. Jennie’s efforts have yielded productive fruit already. Through her efforts, her congregation has established a “Racial Education Committee,” which has been embraced by her district. Because of her steadfast determination to do more than provide lip services to the deleterious consequences of past racial injustices, she led her congregation, the first in this area and her district, to include a line item of $10,000 in the budget dedicated for reparations. Jennie, who spent her career fighting, to stamp out crime is now fighting to stamp out racism.