Mother and son a constant presence at soup kitchen

Aug. 22, 2014 @ 08:10 AM

Seventy-five-year-old Dorothy "Dot" Ruppard adjusts her hair net, slips on a white apron that ties in the front and wriggles her hands into the thin latex gloves. It is 11 a.m. on a Tuesday, and the line into the Lenoir Soup Kitchen stretches out the door and beyond. Soon after, her son, 43-year-old Marshall Ruppard, a Lenoir master police officer, strides in to keep order.

Marshall Ruppard beams widely when Mom is there to greet him. He knows the soup kitchen clients welcome her big smile and homemade desserts. One by one, the clients are served up heaping portions of beef stew, weenies and beans and macaroni and cheese.

"She enjoys it. It helps her to stay busy," Marshall Ruppard said. "It makes her feel not so 75."

Service seems to run in the family. For the past 11 years, Dot Ruppard, a retired Happy Valley School teacher assistant, has been serving up meals at the soup kitchen. For the past two and a half years, Marshall Ruppard has added a police presence at the soup kitchen as part of his downtown beat.

In 2003, Dot Ruppard started volunteering at the soup kitchen every Tuesday to help serve hot meals to those who cannot afford a hot meal elsewhere, or who may be homeless. Now, she comes every other Tuesday but arrives early. Sometimes, she brings in a dessert baked at her Joyceton Church Street home.

"We like to talk and fellowship," she said of the other soup kitchen volunteers. "These are some of the sweetest people here. We also like to cut up. Some of these people who come here may not be coming from a happy place."

Since 1983, the soup kitchen has been serving free meals to the area's less fortunate. Operating out of a Catholic church in 1982, the soup kitchen moved to the American Legion and then to its current site on College Avenue in 1991.  Dot Ruppard says she has seen the lines at the door get longer over the past 11 years. Just last year, 27,000 plates of food were served.

Soup kitchen director Angel Moretz values the presence of Dot and Marshall Ruppard.

"The city is lucky to have him as an officer, and we are lucky to have him serving here," Moretz said. "Dot is a wonderful volunteer. She does a lot of baking for us and makes wonderful desserts. I really enjoy her Sundrop pound cake.

"She has also brought us other volunteers."

Dot Ruppard will never stop being a mom to Marshall, despite the uniform and badge.

"He thinks I'm up here volunteering, but I'm really keeping an eye on him," she quipped.