MARTINSBURG, W.Va. (WDVM) — Ruanna Hess is a remarkable woman and a true matriarch. Hess has been a resident of West Virginia for nearly her entire life and has remained in Martinsburg for more than 50 years. She volunteers in several places across the area, but these days you can typically find her working with the Berkeley County Congregational Cooperative Action Project (CCAP).
“We help with rental assistance, we do electric assistance. Water, sewer,” said Hess. “And of course we do the food.”
Hess acts as the CCAP volunteer coordinator, but since the coronavirus pandemic began, she has done much of the volunteering herself, dedicating three days a week to doing hands-on work for the organization.
“I actually started in September of ’92. They started this organization in ’82. So I’ve been here 28 years,” said Hess.
Hess is the head of a large family. She has four children, 17 grandchildren, and soon she will have 21 great-grandchildren. She loves doing crafts for the members of her family, so every single grandchild and great-grandchild has received a custom-made crib quilt. So far, she’s made 37.
“I’m expecting one in June of this year,” said Hess. “So I’ll be doing another quilt. And I enjoy doing that — doing the quilts for the babies.”
Her love for sewing and crafts goes back many years to when she would sew all of the clothes her four children would wear. She also bakes cakes for special events and sends cards to all of her friends and family members for every single occasion.
“You know, when you’re a kid, you don’t appreciate that kind of stuff until you get older. And then you realize how special it was,” said Janet Hough, Hess’s daughter. “She’s the perfect role model. I mean, she is what she is — she lives her faith and her beliefs and you see that. So how can you not help but try to be like her?”
However, Hess refused to take all of the credit for her shine. She largely credits her husband for creating an environment where she could focus so heavily on her loved ones.
“In a matter of three years, I had three children. And he was a truck driver. So that enabled me to be a stay-at-home mom, which has enabled me to be a volunteer at the schools and at church,” said Hess.
Hess’s husband passed away in December 2019, just shy of their 60th anniversary. Even as Hess was dealing with her own grief, she was a rock for her family to lean on.
“The morning that dad passed away, my son came to see him,” said Hough. “And we had just lost my father-in-law six months prior, which was his other grandfather. And she looked at him and she said ‘Oh, bless your heart. You’ve lost two grandfathers now.’ So that’s just — she’s just always looking out for everyone else.”
For this remarkable woman, her true motivation is simply bringing joy to others.
“It is showing god’s love. A deep commitment to help other people,” said Hess. “When you know you’ve helped someone with their rent to keep them in their home one more month, or their electric from being turned off, it really just gives you a deep feeling of satisfaction.”