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Fred and Ruth Spencer

Fred and Ruth Spencer

When it comes to having a soft spot for people in need, Fred and Ruth Spencer share one that’s perhaps a bit softer than most.

This upbeat couple, now in their early 80s, believes charity begins at home – but they’re quick to add that it also needs to leave home and help the community. They’ve lived that belief all their lives, from the early years of their marriage when they took in foster babies and nurtured them until they were adopted, to their work with the Red Cross helping flood victims, to today, with their decision to make monthly donations to Hamilton Community Foundation’s Tackling Poverty Together initiative.

They are also long-time supporters of HCF’s Spectator Summer Camp Fund, based on Ruth’s fond memories of attending the camp as a child during the Depression. “There were times my family was on relief and I’ve never forgotten that,” Ruth says. “I remember those happy days at camp, and I think it’s so important for children to get away from the city and have fun.”

Both of Ruth’s parents were orphans, and her father was one of the “home children” who were sent from Great Britain to work on Canadian farms. Fred grew up in Birmingham, England and is particularly sensitive to the struggles that children and young people can face growing up in big, industrial cities. “We’ve always been interested in trying to help children from poor circumstances,” he says. “They’re the next generation who mustn’t be bypassed. With the Foundation’s current focus on poverty reduction, it seemed like a logical cause to support.”

Although they had originally planned to leave a small bequest to HCF, Ruth and Fred met with Hamilton Community Foundation to discuss their interest in leaving a ‘living’ legacy, with funds that would start to work now and not wait until their estates were settled. With the Foundation’s help, they began in November 2005 to make automatic monthly withdrawals from their bank account to support the Community Fund, which provides grants to projects aimed at preventing and reducing poverty.

“We sat down and started to make some decisions,” Ruth says. “With our age, we felt we needed to do this. We talked things over with our daughters and we have things in place now.”

Excerpt from 2005-2006 Annual Report