The other day I sat with Ruth Dawkins for a conversation at Los Gatos Meadows, a local retirement community. She is 14 years into retirement.
She reflected on decades as a social worker in Santa Clara County, interacting with clients, some of whom were from Los Gatos. She spent many years in the department of protective services for children. When assigned cases where intensive attention was required, she would often enter the home environment. What was needed? Encouragement, demonstration of household and parental skills, introduction of problem-solving ideas, etc.
Who were helped? A variety of people. Perhaps they were undocumented immigrants. Maybe a citizen married to a person from south of the border seeking to remain here. Some had been injured leading to special needs. There were abandoned women and sexually abused children. And others. What a slice of life Dawkins saw.
In a special category of help recipients were those called Ming Quong, abandoned female babies or girls in sexual slavery of Chinese origin. Ming Quong (“Radiant Light), a private charity, utilized county services. It founded a second-hand outlet, the Happy Dragon Thrift Shop, to fund its endeavor. The Happy Dragon, along with The Butter Paddle Gift Shop, both in Los Gatos, continue in support of EMQ Children and Family Services, headquartered in Campbell. (EMQ stands for Eastfield Ming Quong, the result of a merger of a Santa Clara County boys’ home with Ming Quong.) The present agency works with children and families in crisis with the goal of maintaining the unity of the family. Its motto: “With your help and a little time, we can transform the lives of children and families.”
When asked about the relation of her faith to her social work, Dawkins noted that she could not proselytize. But she observed that a vast number of social workers were children of ministers and rabbis or who had a grandparent in ministry. She said, “Social work meant not just teaching homemaking, but showing folk how to love their children.” She added, “It was a way to live out my faith.”
These days Dawkins is active in her , UCC, Los Gatos. At Los Gatos Meadows she coordinates the weekly vesper services in the chapel where visiting clergy minister to about 25 residents who attend.
To come away from a conversation with Dawkins is to know one has encountered intelligence, experience and faithfulness—all in good measure.