When Andrea Ruiz’s grandmother unexpectedly passed away in 2011, she watched as her grandfather transitioned to living alone. He struggled to prepare meals and had to deal with a newfound sense of isolation. Since she couldn’t be there for him all the time, Andrea reached out to Meals on Wheels for help. Meals on Wheels not only brought meals to her grandfather, but they also created a community and a connection point for him until he too passed away later that year.
It was this first experience with Meals on Wheels that galvanized Andrea to get involved.
So much more than a delivery service
“Think about how hard isolation was for us throughout COVID,” explains Andrea. “For people who rely on Meals on Wheels, isolation is often their reality. Doing meal deliveries, I learned that the service was less about the food and much more about the human connection.”
Andrea has volunteered with Meals on Wheels in Collin County, Texas (on the outskirts of Dallas) and in Southern California, where she relocated for work. And since joining the Meals on Wheels Board of Directors in 2018, she has helped further the organization’s mission from a leadership position.
The power of partnership
Schwab’s culture of community service is one of the reasons that Andrea, who is Branch Manager for the Carlsbad and Temecula branches in Southern California, has been an employee for nearly 17 years.
At Schwab, employees don’t just talk about giving back to their communities; we actually live by what we say and are consistently present in the communities we serve.
- Andrea Ruiz, Branch Manager, Charles Schwab
So, it just made sense to Andrea to pair Schwab’s philanthropic resources with Meals on Wheels. She started organizing branch-wide volunteer days to both package and hand-deliver food to people in the community. And over the last decade, she has organized 12 community meal drop-offs and six fundraisers as a Schwab corporate sponsor.
“What I love about Meals on Wheels is that it relates to what we do at Schwab: seeing the problem through the clients’ eyes, and doing the right thing for them,” explains Andrea.
Starting from the right place
Andrea serves as a Branch Community Ambassador, where she helps other employees based in Southern California get involved in the community. Andrea’s advice for those who want to become volunteers is to find your passion.
“You must go into service with your whole heart, and have zero expectations in return,” she says. “That’s when you’ll notice how much it benefits you, personally and professionally.”
And Andrea’s passion for Meals on Wheels is evident. When she talks about her experience there are tears in her eyes and a smile on her face. For her, leading with empathy and putting herself in other peoples’ shoes has transformed her perspective and reminds her that her purpose always comes back to people helping one another.