Rusty is one of our amazing selfless volunteers who, at the age of 81, donates her time to the community twice a week at the Friendship House in hopes of teaching sign language and spreading information about the hard of hearing and death culture to our staff and residents.
-What got you involved?
I’ve always been a big believer of giving back but how I got involved with the friendship house I can’t exactly remember, although its been almost two years. I just like to hear the acts of kindness today, I’m tired of hearing about all the violence and hate so i thought "Why not go out and help in the community". When I first got here there was another AmeriCorps VISTA named Chris and I was excited to talk to him because I also served as a VISTA almost 50 years ago in 1956. I believe that I brought some stuff over to donate when i found out that there was someone hard of hearing staying at the friendship house. That's when i thought, "why don’t I teach your staff and volunteers sign language to help them connect with the hard of hearing community. I don’t have money to give away, but i would love to give my time."
What got you into teaching American Sign Language?
It all started about 40 years ago after I finished my VISTA term and I was dating someone who signed, and I thought that that would be cool to learn. They had just begun the first sign language class in Tacoma, so I took the class and it was so big that the second week she had to divide it into two. I went up to the teacher saying” I need more help, can I come to both your classes”. The teacher and i became best friends from that day on. Next, I started to volunteer as a teacher aid at the high school to get more experience signing. Next, i went to Marysville college to get my interpreting degree. Eventually I started interpreting at the Pacific Lutheran University and then I started the sign language classes and taught for 13 years there.
-What is your favorite part?
My favorite part is you guys and what you do here. “I just think that its really nice that people have some place to go when they have no where else to turn to. I really think that there is always a lot of volunteers here and you guys are always giving back, and I truly appreciate that. You try and it shows."
-What is your biggest take away from all of this?
I just appreciate being able to be of some help and getting people comfortable with sign language. More and more people are going deaf now a days so I think its important that the community becomes more willing to connect with them
I think the Friendship house is a great place and I believe that we are all blessed to have it here.