Ruby Brawner is the kind of woman whose reputation precedes her — in the best way possible.
“I’ve always said that Ruby is the greatest goodwill ambassador in Hall County,” said the Rev. Bill Coates, senior pastor at First Baptist Church in Gainesville.
This well-deserved reputation is why the longtime community leader and volunteer was honored this month by the Girl Scouts of Historic Georgia as Gainesville’s 2018 Woman of Distinction.
“I know somebody had to notice me to choose me to get this award,” Brawner said. “It lifts up my spirit. I’m just plain old Ruby. That’s why it shocked me so much.”
Born in Banks County in 1933, Brawner spent most of her childhood in Commerce. She relocated to Gainesville in the late 1950s with her husband, Wallace.
She worked in a chicken plant for 15 years.
But it was her work as caregiver, which she performed in private homes for 32 years, that sparked a passion for community service.
“I said to myself, ‘I would like to do some volunteer work,’” Brawner said.
She started at the Northeast Georgia Medical Center, where she has spent the last 35 years supporting patients and caring for newborns.
“I love that,” she said.
But it also wasn’t enough for Brawner, whose robustness and zeal for life appears as strong as ever in her words and deeds.
Coates described Brawner as an ecumenical leader who brings harmony wherever she goes.
“To me, she’s a person with such humility and such charisma,” Coates said. “I’m happy to know her.”
Brawner has volunteered with Meals on Wheels for 25 years now.
“Most of my clients are by themselves, they’re elderly,” she said. “They get lonely and I can understand that.”
And she has volunteered with the Hall County Prison Ministry for the same amount of time.
“They’re glad to get out of the cell and hear some word from the Lord,” she said of inmates she visits.
Brawner recalls one woman in jail who heard this message and later joined her church.
“When I can see my working paying off, it makes me feel better,” she said.
She has also served as the president of the Gainesville Prayer Band since 1983, visiting local churches to pray for the congregation.
“I love that on Sunday morning,” she said.
Brawner has seen every change in Gainesville over the last 60 years, from the fall of segregation to the election of the first African-American city council member.
“I try to treat folks like I want to be treated,” she said. “It does not cost one dime to love, to be nice and kind.”
Brawner has also had the fortune to see her family tree branch from one generation to the next. She now has eight grandchildren, four great-grandchildren and one great-great granddaughter.
For her successes and triumphs, it would be easy for Brawner to rest on her laurels. But she has no intention of ceasing her service to the Gainesville community anytime soon.
“Unless the Lord sees fit” otherwise, she said. “It’s been a tremendous blessing for me.”