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Local resident receives recognition for life of service


By Melissa Robinson
Contributing Editor 

  Florine Ruffin dedicated more than half her life to caring for children, and last Saturday some of those children, along with friends and family filled her Locust Grove home to pay tribute to her in recognition of her 75th birthday.

McDonough Mayor Billy Copeland presents Florine Ruffin with a proclamation that recognizes her vast body of work and service to foster children in Henry County and the state of Georgia.
                                                   Photo by Melissa Robinson

  In addition to the many family, friends and well-wishers, Ruffin was surrounded by several of the children she fostered over the 43 years she worked with the Department of Family and Children’s Services (DFACS) as the president of the Foster Parent Association of Henry County. McDonough Mayor Billy Cope-land paid a special visit to present her with a proclamation acknowledging her many years of service to the community’s children.

  Ruffin said it was her baby brother, Sylvester Stinson, who threw the party for her. She said she helped raise him because their mother worked.

  “She’s fantastic, but she’ll take control in a minute,” laughed Stinson.

  Working with DeKalb, Fulton and Henry counties over more than four decades, she cared for 68 foster care children, while raising her own three daughters. Many of her foster children were mentally handicapped. But Ruffin said when she was raising her foster children, she didn’t differentiate between her biological children and her foster children.

  “They were all mine. I treated all of the children the same. That’s how you have to think of it. Once they are given to you, they’re yours,” she said.

  She said that when she was caring for children, she was always running somewhere, whether it was the doctor’s office or counselor appointments, activities, school; it was nonstop energy.

  “I was always on the road,” she laughed. 

  And although she saw many changes throughout her long relationship with DFACS and the foster care system, she said one thing hasn’t changed — the need for more caseworkers. She said that when she was taking care of children, case workers were overloaded with cases, and that trend hasn’t changed.

  She said she retired from fostering in 2006 but treasures the experience of raising children and said she encourages anyone who is thinking about becoming a foster parent to just do it.

  “It can be challenging but it’s so rewarding,” said Ruffin. 

  Now with no children to care for at home, Ruffin enjoys traveling and has been all over the world, namely to Africa and throughout Europe, counting London as her favorite place to visit. She said she has always enjoyed traveling and even traveled with her children, but she kept her vacations in the United States.

  “Oh, I took them all over the United States,” she said.

  In his proclamation, Copeland recognized Ruffin’s many years of service to children not only in Henry County but throughout the state of Georgia.

  “Ms. Ruffin holds the recognition of having been a mother to more children than any other woman in Henry County,” said Copeland.

  He went on to proclaim July 4, 2013, as Florine Ruffin Day.

  “As she celebrates the milestone of her seventy-fifth birthday, Ms. Ruffin is a role model to all the young people that she has loved and mentored, including her eight grandchildren and one great grandchild,” read Copeland from the official proclamation.  “In honor of her life, which has been full, spirited and a blessing to so many.”

  Many friends offered words of love and support for Ruffin.

  Longtime friend Joanna White said Ruffin has a wonderful sense of humor and has been a great friend to her since the 70s.

  “She is very loving and very loyal and very dedicated. She’s meant a lot to me through the years,” said Angie Christianson.

  Phyllis Shrader, DFACS director for 28 years, said Ruffin was a blessing both professionally and personally.

  “She never turned me down when I called her and asked her to take a child, and she was wonderful in the fact that her goal was to provide a home for the children until they could go home to their parents or until they could be placed for adoption. There was no child that was too hard for her. She always loved the children, gave them stability, helping them make something out of themselves,” said Shrader. “And man, now that I’ve retired, she's a blessing in my life because she's a very good friend and is a great asset to this community, and I love her dearly.”

  “She’s just a loving person, she will help you do anything and just give and give,” said friend Jane Holland.

  “Florine is the best friend anybody ever had, always there when you need her. She’s a lovely lady and I’m glad to know her,” said Louise Cotton.

  Savilla Hill came from Savannah to celebrate with Ruffin.

  “She’s considered my Christian mom and I think I can sum her up by saying she’ll be with you to the end,” said Hill.

  One of Ruffin oldest friends, Ann Cooper, said that the pair has been friends for 40 years, and even though Cooper's family had moved away for several years, the distance never came between their friendship.

  “I love Florine and we are true sisters in Christ,” said Cooper.



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