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‘Be Kind, Love Big’: A Young Girl’s Family Shares Friendship in Her Name

Volunteers with “Be A Ruby” share coffee, water, and a meal in Grand Rapids, Mich.
Greg Chandler

Tables draped in bright pink tablecloths along the sidewalk of South Division Avenue in Grand Rapids, Mich., hold hot cups of coffee, bottles of water, hot dogs and containers of chili. It's a “Feed Your Neighbor” event, the main outreach of “Be A Ruby,” a nonprofit organization started by Harry and Miranda Rissley in memory of their late daughter, Ruby. Joined by family members and volunteers from their church, Faith Community Christian Reformed Church in Wyoming, Mich., the Rissleys feed about 125 people who are homeless one Saturday every month.

Ruby Rissley was 7 years old when she was struck and killed by a car while on her way home from school in February 2021. Nine months later, her parents launched Be A Ruby, wanting to do something good in Ruby's name alongside her three brothers Harry IV, Leo, and Finn.

“When we were first deciding what we could do to help the community, this came to mind,” Harry Rissley said. “We threw something together one month, and we’ve been going ever since.” 

The organization’s slogan is “Be Kind, Love Big.” Harry Rissley says that was very much Ruby’s personality. He says everyone to her was a friend. 

“It didn’t matter—background, skin color, anything. She was your friend,” he said. “That was one of the big things with her. She always wanted to do things for people. Community outreach—that's what she did.” 

In addition to the monthly meals they serve for those who are homeless, Be A Ruby also provides other assistance to people facing challenging situations. During the holidays they provide family dinners, and the organization also offers assistance with home repairs. 

“If something in the house breaks—(air conditioning), the heater—we try to get somebody that’s in that trade to help out with their time (and labor), and we’ll help with some parts,” Harry Rissley said. 

The organization hosts a couple of major fundraising events each year to support the ministry, and individuals can sign up to make monthly donations or purchase small necessary items from an online wishlist.

Roger Groenboom, pastor of Faith Community CRC, said the church’s deacons and congregation have contributed offerings, hosted clothing drives, and are hosting a spring auction in support of the neighborhood outreaches. Grace Bible Fellowship, in Jenison, Mich., is another contributing church. 

“Ruby was a joyful, kind, smiling little girl, always wanting to help others,” Groenboom said.  


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