A little before 11 a.m. on a recent Friday, Ruth Raidt took her weekly golf cart ride from Our Lady of Life Apartments to her regular, four-hour volunteer shift in the gift shop at Mary Queen and Mother Center, both on the Cardinal Ritter Senior Services campus in Shrewsbury.
Until about two years ago, she walked to her service commitment, but at 91 years old, it was time to catch a ride.
"The driver's also a volunteer; he brings us over here and picks us up," she said. "That makes a big difference. I used to walk — it's not that far — but the legs just didn't want to do it anymore.
"Once you hit that 90 years ..."
Raidt's laughter finished the sentence. She laughs often as she waits on gift shop regulars, shopping for snacks or religious items such as rosaries, crucifixes and more. Her regulars range from skilled nurses to health care workers, from residents' family members to residents themselves, many of whom benefit from the largess of St. Louis Catholics in the Annual Catholic Appeal. In addition to that ACA support, residents such as Raidt give even more intangible benefits with their volunteer services.
The largest agency among eight under the Catholic Charities of St. Louis banner, Cardinal Ritter Senior Services receives ongoing support from the appeal. According to ACA figures, Cardinal Ritter Seniors Services will receive a grant worth $120,000 from the 2017 Appeal. The grant will help fill shortfalls in medicaid payments for low-income residents and funds a grant writer, which enables CRSS to leverage part of the ACA grant for additional grants to benefit residents.
The gift shop is just one perk for residents at the skilled nursing center but isn't the main one: Catholic Identity.
Daily Mass and Rosary are among the things that set Cardinal Ritter Senior Services apart in the competitive senior living realm. In addition to Mary Queen and Mother Center, Our Lady of Life Apartments and Mother of Perpetual Help assisted living apartments also offer daily Masses. Mass is available at St. Joseph Apartments and Holy Infant Apartments. With Regina Cleri apartments close by, Cardinal Ritter has an ample supply of retired but still active archdiocesan priests to foster this Catholic identity.
"That's a big feature for a lot of folks," said CRSS director of development Amy Leipholtz, noting regular daily church-goers can continue as such after leaving their homes. "That's a big factor for us, something we offer that not everybody can.
"We're lucky to have good chapel space and to have Regina Cleri next door."
The senior community also is lucky to have committed volunteers such as Raidt and others giving back. Residents volunteer in the gift shop, greeting visitors at Mary Queen and Mother, transporting fellow volunteers in the golf cart, working in the development and housing offices, and more.
Leipholtz describes the volunteers as "super great."
Raidt resembles that remark. She moved into Our Lady of Life Apartments soon after her husband of 54 years, Jack Raidt, died in 2003. She started volunteering two years later, then moved to a weekly rotation from every other week after another volunteer called it quits.
"I've always volunteered, so it was a natural thing after I came here," said Raidt, who has seven children, 16 grandchildren, 10 great-grandchildren and one great-great grandchild. The five generations gathered last year for three days at Trout Lodge for her 90th birthday, traveling here from around the country. "We had a ball," she said.
In addition to volunteering at the gift shop, Raidt enjoys reading, following Cardinals baseball — "I don't miss a game," she said — and attending performances at The Muny with family members. She has season tickets.
"I wouldn't miss it," she said. "I love it."
Same with volunteering.
"It motivates you," she said. "It keeps me going."
>> Archbishop's Charity Fund
The Annual Catholic Appeal directly supports Cardinal Ritter Senior Services with an annual grant, but CRSS gets indirect support as well.
ACA helps support the Archbishop's Charity Fund, which in turn sends support to Cardinal Ritter's We Care We Share, a confidential fund for CRSS employees in need or crisis.
We Care We Share also has a food pantry and a no-interest-loan component. Although CRSS employees don't accept gifts from residents and families, who often wish to honor their care, donations may be made to We Care We Share in honor of specific employees.
CRSS employees, CRSS board members, resident and family members, and other donors contribute to We Care We Share.
Archbishop Robert J. Carlson has an active role in the Archbishop's Charity Fund, which distributes aid independent of the ACA.
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Amy Leipholtz, the director of development at Cardinal Ritter Senior Services, credits faithful volunters such as Ruth Raidt for CRSS's ability to keep the gift shop at Mary Queen and Mother Center open on a daily basis. The shop typcially is open for a four-hour stretch, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
"We're always looking for volunteers," she said, adding that if a volunteer would only be available for evening hours, the shop would be opoen then, too. "We're happy to work around everybody's schedule."
For information about volunteering, contact Leipholtz at (314) 961-8000 or [email protected]