CHESTERFIELD — In describing Ruthie Smith’s approach to her work and her involvement in the community, Beth Tharp turned to Dr. Seuss.

“A person is a person, no matter how small,” said Tharp, quoting from the venerable children’s author’s book, “Horton Hears a Who.”

“Ruthie truly believes that about everyone she comes into contact with,” Tharp told an audience of nearly 150 people during Saturday’s Woman in Philanthropy brunch at Millcreek Civic Center. “She has an innate ability to lift people up, connect with them and bring them hope.”

Smith, the maternal child support services coordinator at Community Hospital Anderson, was honored by the Madison County Community Foundation with its first Woman of Impact Award during the brunch. The recognition, Smith said, left her humbled and grateful — a word she repeated several times when asked to reflect on what it meant to her.

“I’m grateful for the women and the people that I get to work with through the Women in Philanthropy,” she said. “And I’m grateful for the opportunities that I have in this community, whether it be inside the walls of the hospital or outside the walls of the hospital.”

The honor for Smith was the centerpiece of the brunch, which served both as a Community Foundation fundraiser and an opportunity to recognize those who advocate for women and children.

The event’s keynote speaker, A’Niyah Birdsong, was summoned away at the last minute due to a family medical emergency, but she noted that the messages being shared are important.

“We have to be crucial about how much time and energy we really spend in our community,” said Birdsong, an Anderson native who was named Miss Indiana USA in 2021. “We know that philanthropy is the No. 1 reason that our community is alive and thriving, because we have so many women and children’s initiatives in place to really shape the world that we want to see today.”

Organizers said another theme of the morning was encouraging women in attendance to seek out opportunities to serve others, with no act of kindness considered too small.

“We want people to help their neighbors,” said Kari Sisk, vice president of programs for the community foundation. “We want them to know, it’s not just about a donation.

“It’s about reaching out to your neighbor or a struggling single mom who may just need a supporter, a check-in, or a connection to another service. That’s really what we’re here for.”

Follow Andy Knight on Twitter @Andrew_J_Knight, or call 765-640-4809.

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