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Kay Ruhstaller

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Kay Ruhstaller, nonprofit leader and CEO of the Family Resource & Referral Center, sat down with HERLIFE Magazine recently to share her dedication to family and community.

HLM: How long have you lived here? What do you love most?
KR: I’m from Omaha, Nebraska, and I have lived in Stockton for 33 years. The part I love the most about Stockton and San Joaquin County is the diversity of cultures and hard-scrabble people that continue fighting to make this place we love better. I also adore the sunsets over the Delta accompanied by the delta breeze.

HLM: How is your heart inspired to serve the community?
KR: The greater part of my career has been in service to children and youth and their families. My heart is here. The Family Resource & Referral Center team goes above and beyond to create bright futures for children and youth. We have diversified our services beyond child care to include employment services, home visitation services, and many other family strengthening services such as the Help Me Grow program, which provides assessments of children’s development milestones so children can be properly screened for vision, hearing, speech and developmental delays. We’ve operated a pre-school named after the founder of our organization, Joan Richards Learning Village, since 2015. We also became the designated 211 service provider for San Joaquin County. 211 is a dedicated phone line for the sole purpose of improving access to health, human and disaster recovery services. For a decade, we operated the Teen Impact Center for the city of Stockton as the city emerged from bankruptcy, affording youth a safe haven in downtown Stockton.

HLM: What sparks joy for you?
KR: Kids absolutely still spark joy in my life. Kids and puppies; dancing;  spending time with lifelong friends.

HLM: What’s your free time passion?KR: When not working, I can be found walking with my husband, our dog Lincoln, and his sidekick Stevie, my grand dog. I’m fairly religious about shopping at the farmer’s market on Sunday morning where you can really soak in the bounty that is San Joaquin County.

HLM: Top three bucket list goals?
KR: The top long-term goal on my bucket list is to create a dedicated children’s local fund along with the army of the persistent that is the San Joaquin Children’s Alliance. When we invest in children, everyone wins. Second is to live abroad and travel extensively while there. Short-term bucket list is to see the Giants at spring training; next year will be better for them.

HLM: What accomplishment are you most proud of?
KR: Choosing a great partner of 31 years, Donald, and raising two kind, smart and spirited daughters, Kathleen and Rebecca, together while having a rewarding career is what I had always dreamed of doing. I’m most proud of our family and the love and strength we share in good and in challenging times. Becoming the 13th female president of the Greater Stockton Chamber of Commerce in the 121-year history of the organization is an accomplishment. I’m very honored to serve with a board committed to making businesses and Stockton thrive. When business is good, families and children thrive.

HLM: Can you describe a key event that had an impact on your life?
KR: My mom’s mother passed away when she was 11 years old. Her family was dirt poor, as they say in Texas. Her older brothers went into the military after high school and she and her younger brother went to an orphanage because her father didn’t feel they would learn and grow as needed while he tried to earn a living during the Depression. My mother profoundly shaped all of her children by her silent strength and resourceful resilience. She did not complain about anything. This remarkable example she set fueled almost all of my professional work to connect people to the resources they need when they need them, child care and other. I’ve often wondered if I might have known my grandmother if they’d had the resources for healthcare.

HLM: Do you have a favorite quote?
KR: For this time of year: “Gratitude is the memory of the heart,” an old French proverb by Jean-Baptiste Massieu.

HLM: What are you currently reading?
KR: Reading for about the tenth time, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. I’m always reading more than one book at a time.

HLM: Favorite food or dessert?
KR: Soft-serve vanilla ice cream, preferably in a small town in Texas with family, simply the best.