Kevin Bonham, Forum News Service, Published December 03 2013
Pisek woman celebrates 60th birthday with 60 good deeds
The present came from Ruth Moen Jelinek, First Care’s marketing/development director.
“It represents the 12 days of Christmas,” she said.
Jelinek is celebrating, too. Today is her 60th birthday.
Rather than buy something for herself or hope friends and family might throw her a party, she came up with another idea.
She called it 60 in 60: My Birthday Project, in which she does one good deed per day for 60 consecutive days leading up to the milestone birthday.
The idea developed over the past few months, after reading of similar projects. One of them, Kindness is Contagious, is a column and blog written by Nicole Phillips, wife of North Dakota State University basketball coach Saul Phillips, in which she encourages people to write letters to their loved ones during the Christmas season explaining why they’re important to them.
“Charity is something that my family has promoted all my life,” said Jelinek, a Walsh County native who lives in Pisek, a community of 100.
“My grandfather taught it to me. He did it by hauling people to Grand Forks to the doctor. My parents did those things, too. I’m trying to pass this tradition on to my kids and grandkids.”
While she had some idea of what she would be doing before the project, which officially started Oct. 6, the list of deeds pretty much developed along the way.
Here’s a sample, as noted on her Facebook page:
- Day 1 of 60: Donate crocheted dishcloths and dish towels for Octoberfest Country Store of Holy Cross Catholic Church in West Fargo
- Day 2 of 60: Gave a ($50) gas card to a Walsh County woman undergoing chemo treatments in Fargo.
- Day 5 of 60: “From mother to mother … my friend ... needed something to comfort her. It was a milestone day – and not a good milestone. You see, we have something in common as we’ve both lost sons early in life. Today was 10 years since she’d lost her son … My granddaughter suggested I give her one of my violet plants that are ‘descended’ from one of my Grandma Moen’s violets. These violets give me such comfort as I remember my Grandmother daily when I look at them in my kitchen window. Little did I know that (her) mother also had violets. She laughed and cried about the memory of her mother’s violets …”
- Day 29 of 60: “Adopted” some quilts at the Park River Bible Camp Quilt Auction. “I’m kind of a softie for those unique quilts – the fabrics may not coordinate, they’re tied with yarn, not machine-quilted, and may have a sheet for backing. BUT, they’re the quilts that are warm and cuddly, sturdy enough to hold up to sleepovers and picnics in the parks, and most of all, made by quilters that are loving and caring people that share their craft to help others. Blessings to those quilters.”
- Day 39: Donated online through Samaritan’s Purse to help those affected by the typhoon in the Philippines. It breaks my heart to see the suffering and loss.”
The online donation was one of several she has made throughout the past two months.
It also is an example of how the project developed along the way. She said she tried to find local causes first. And as the weeks went on, she received plenty of suggestions from friends and relatives.
She knew that if a good idea didn’t pan out, she could find a worthy cause online. Samaritan’s Purse, she said, is led by the Rev. Franklin Graham, son of the Rev. Billy Graham.
As the 60-in-60 project wound down, she said she was drawn to Kelsey Hunt, the Larimore native and University of North Dakota student working at First Care this year.
Hospital staff members participate annually in a Secret Santa program, one in which they exchange a series of gifts before Christmas.
“Kelsey didn’t participate, probably because she’s a college student and maybe couldn’t afford it,” Jelinek said. “I thought she should have something.”
“I can’t believe it,” Hunt said as she peeked through the bag of unopened gifts. “Ruth is just amazing.”
Today, she set special plans for Day 60. If the weather cooperates, she intends to travel to West Fargo, where she and her grandchildren planned to ring bells for the Salvation Army.
If that doesn’t work out, she’ll go back to her computer and make an online donation.
“I almost feel sad that it’s going to end,” she said. “The rewards come back tenfold, even one hundredfold. It’s been a fun journey, a good way to lead up to your birthday.”