'Ministry of trash' grows out of fitness habit - Word&Way

‘Ministry of trash’ grows out of fitness habit

IRONTON — Baptists in Missouri who participated in the Missouri Department of Transportation's No MOre Trash! Bash in April may have recognized the photo on flyers to promote the event.

Ruth Ann Short, now ensconced in a snug apartment at The Baptist Home at Arcadia Valley, was this year's "poster child" for a ministry that grew out of her walking habit — as a volunteer in MoDOT's Adopt-A-Highway project.

Ruth Ann Short, now a resident at The Baptist Home in Arcadia Valley, poses alongside Highway O in Marthasville for a public relations photo for the Missouri Department of Transportation. Short, who has picked up trash as part of MoDOT's Adopt-A-Highway program since 2008, now continues her ministry in Ironton. (Photo courtesy of Missouri Department of Transportation)

The department recognized her more-than-the-average hours of volunteer labor by featuring her on the Trash Bash publicity — decked out in her yellow volunteer vest, sporting yellow gloves and holding a yellow "No MOre Trash" bag.

The International Mission Board emeritus missionary to Nigeria first volunteered for Adopt-A-Highway duty through Charrette Baptist Church in Marthasville in May 2008. She and her late husband, James "Doc" Short, lived at The Home from Sept. 1, 2001, after Doc suffered a stroke. She remained in an independent living apartment on the Arcadia Valley campus for a few years after her husband's death in 2004.

She chose to return to Marthasville in 2007, and the church asked her to work with senior adults, visiting the homebound, those in area nursing homes and the hospitalized.

Short loves to walk, a habit she finds time for nearly every day. When she discovered that Charrette Baptist had adopted a section of Highway O, she decided to get involved and began picking up trash along the church's one-mile stretch.

Because she usually covers more than a single mile during her walks, she stretched her coverage area to include all the major thoroughfares into Marthasville. While covering a few miles each day, Short collected, on average, more than 16 MoDOT bags full of trash each month.

When she moved back to The Baptist Home in July, she brought her "adopt-a-community" attitude with her. She volunteered to walk the mile The Home adopted along Highway 72, and soon added Ironton's Main Street — both sides — and a few additional streets to her route.

"I go all around and I pick up trash wherever I walk," she said. Short has a pedometer and tries to clock at least 10,000 steps each day.

In addition to her "ministry of trash," Short serves the Lord in other ways while she makes her rounds. She prays for the people who live in the homes she passes as she walks and for those who discard trash along roadways. She sheepishly admits that she often has to pray about her attitude toward litterers.

She prays for workers and guests at the nearby country club when she contributes the many golf balls she retrieves along The Home's one-mile stretch. She's grateful to leaders at the Assembly of God church at the end of the TBH route for allowing her to park in their lot while she covers that section.

Short laughed when sharing about some of her scavenger finds. She has found a credit card, a student identification card and lots of caps and t-shirts, in addition to the "normal" food wrappers and soda bottles. MoDOT doesn't require volunteers to retrieve the "most disgusting" throwaways — soiled disposable diapers.

The Memphis, Tenn., native has found money along the roadways as well.

One lesson she's learned after finding part of a shredded $1 bill is that banks require at least a third of a paper bill before substituting a fresh bill.

Service is second nature to Short — so much so that she does much more at The Baptist Home than clean a stretch of road in front of it.

She helps out wherever she can, often volunteering to fold linens in the laundry. She assists the chaplain at each Sunday morning worship service, first on the "transportation committee" to assist residents in wheelchairs and then as an usher to help with seating, to get hearing aids and to assist with other needs. Each Wednesday she assists residents to and from chapel for evening service.

In addition, Short has been cleaning out one of the ponds on the Arcadia Valley campus "as a hobby." Two of The Home's ponds have been drained to be reworked. The third has not yet been drained. Short wades in to clean debris from the water.

The emeritus missionary currently serves on the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Missouri's Coordinating Council and is its interim recorder.

"I feel at peace coming here [to The Home at Arcadia Valley]," she said, and feels particularly grateful that God allows her to continue to serve him by ministering to others.