Originally created 02/29/04

Founder of community center feeds bodies and minds

Twenty-six years ago Ruth Crawford started a social service agency on what she called "a wing and a prayer."

"The first year I paid the light and water out of my own pocket,' Ms. Crawford explained. "There was such a great need, it just had to be."

Today Shiloh Comprehensive Community Center in Augusta has become a beacon of hope in Augusta and a point of reference for many Augustans.

"Shiloh is sort of an oasis in the desert of this community," said Ms. Crawford who volunteers as the center's executive director. "If I was speaking about a wheel, Shiloh would have to be the hub."

And for many it is.

Senior citizens meet there daily to play cards and converse. For them, Shiloh is a refuge from some of the loneliness they encounter. Students go there to find mentors and participate in educational programs. Shiloh offers them a chance to leave their neighborhoods and experience things they might not get a chance to enjoy.

"They look to Shiloh for guidance, for help, for programs that are worthwhile," Ms. Crawford said. She has made it her life's mission to deliver all of that to them.

A former teacher, named Richmond County Teacher of the Year under both a segregated and desegregated school system, Ms. Crawford has never really left the classroom.

Even after retiring, she's taken her lessons to the streets and to the walls of the Shiloh center.

"I find myself in stores saying, 'No, you can't do that' to somebody's child," Ms. Crawford explained. "Teaching gets in your blood. It never gets out. That's why I spent my 26 years here, working with somebody's child."

Her efforts haven't been in vain.

"Every day I'm out here I meet someone who says, 'Thank you for teaching me,' " she said.

Never one to see color, always one to see potential, Ms. Crawford said she has dedicated her life to educating the masses because she believes in the power of education and the necessity of learning.

"Education is the most important thing in the lives of people. Even though I work for nothing, the greatest pay I receive is that I know I have prevented many youth from dropping out of school, pumping drugs in their veins or their community," she said.

Still, Ms. Crawford doesn't do what she does for the recognition or the gratitude of those she works for.

"There is a great need for people to give back. I've been given a lot. I simply see myself as paying back for some of the things I've gained," she said. "It has to be my legacy, I just hope somebody else carries it on.

Reach Kamille Bostick at (706) 823-3223 or kamille.bostick@augustachronicle.com


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