Her warm friendly voice has brightened the lives of countless lonely old people – and may even have saved several, writes Bev Creagh.
Now Ruth Fisher’s voluntary contribution has been recognised with not one but two prestigious awards.
She won the Improving Lives category and overall Winner of Winners crown at the recent Luton & Bedfordshire Community Awards 2014.
But the self-effacing septuagenarian is far too modest to accept any acclaim.
“When I heard I’d been nominated, I was completely taken aback,” she said.
“I also feel when you do something you enjoy, you shouldn’t really accept an award for it.
“And it’s not just for me anyway, it’s for everyone at Age Concern Luton. We’re all in this together.”
Ruth, 75, of Swifts Green Close in Stopsley, has been helping man the charity’s Telephone Club since 2007.
At first she thought she might be intruding, but soon realised how welcome her weekly calls were.
“The first person I spoke to said ‘It’s so lovely to hear a voice’ and it’s something I still hear today,” she said.
She’s in contact with more than 40 senior citizens, many of whom have no close relatives living locally.
“I’m interested in people,” the mother-of-two and former teacher explained. “I’m interested in their experiences and philosophies. I usually start a conversation with remarks about the weather, or what’s on the news.
“Ladies are more talkative than men, they’re much chattier, whereas I sometimes have to draw the men out.
“A couple of years ago I spoke to a gentleman who’d lost his wife and wasn’t well. We ended up talking about football – and now my husband is delighted that I show such an intelligent interest in the game.”
She’ll call someone back if they sound down or unwell. “You can tell a lot by someone’s voice, their tone,” she said. “I spoke to one gentleman who said his catheter needed emptying. The carer didn’t have time, or wasn’t trained and he didn’t want to worry the doctor. So he tried to do it himself and had twisted his back.
“I called the surgery and they sent an ambulance to take him to hospital.” As well as manning phones Ruth helps out at the ACL shop in Farley Hill. “It keeps me busy,” she smiled. “And I love Farley Hill, it’s got a character all of its own.”
Although her own life is full of family, friends and a variety of hobbies, she’s increasingly concerned about the problem of loneliness and the depression, confusion and trouble that comes in its wake.
She said: “Our director Colette McKeaveny was way ahead of her time when she set up the befriending line.
“A trouble shared really is a trouble halved. ”
And no-one is better qualified than Ruth to acknowledge the truth in that old adage.
> If you’d like to volunteer at Age Concern Luton, call 01582 456812.