Judge Albert Kirby remembers being a young boy going into the little country store owned by Ruth Denton and her husband, and still today, recalls how Denton impacted his life.
“I wouldn’t be who I am today without you,” Kirby shared.
Denton recently established an endowment at Sampson Community College, and was joined by Kirby, Dr. Bill Starling, Bertha Faison, Lisa Turlington and Dr. Paul Viser, who all shared stories and recollections of Denton and her impact on their lives and the community.
A native of Sampson County, Denton and her husband raised their family by running a country store. She was one of the first two people to earn her GED through Sampson Technical Institute, now SCC, and later taught extension and nutrition classes for the college and the Sampson County Cooperative Extension office.
“Mrs. Denton continues to advocate for the college by recruiting young people to enroll here,” Turlington, who is the director of the college Foundation, said about Denton’s involvement with the college.
Giving, according to Kirby, is embedded in Denton’s nature.
“Her generosity stands out the most to me,” he shared. “You could have made a lot off the store, but your heart was such that your Christian values outweighed the profit.”
Like Kirby, Faison says she is indebted to Denton for the lasting impact she has left on her life.
“I commend you on all the things you have done,” Faison explained.
Faison met Denton in the 1980s when she was working at the Cooperative Extension office and teaching nutrition classes. As part of her job, she would go into homes and work with families on healthy eating choices. It was how Faison says she came to know Denton.
“You have such a sweet, open spirit,” Faison said. “I still remember you stopping by the house, and even though no one was home, you would leave notes just so we would know you stopped by.”
When Denton first got involved, SCC wasn’t a college, but a training school. Through the years, Denton says she has developed a strong appreciation for the college and what it has done and continues to do for its students.
“I still try to recommend the college to who I can,” Denton explained.
At 13 years old, Denton says she earned her first job working at a local country store sweeping the floors after school. At first, she says she wasn’t paid because she was too young to be considered a paid employee, but once old enough, she earned her first paycheck — for $5.
“I thought I was rich,” Denton said with a laugh. “I didn’t have the privilege most students have today. They just need to take advantage of it.”
Denton retired from the family’s store in 1978 and piddled around the house for a little while before going to work full time with the Cooperative Extension office. There, she spent 25 years traveling across Sampson County helping families shop wisely, spend wisely and cook healthy.
“I would go all over Sampson County and people would know me as the nutrition lady,” Denton said.
Having been a student and teacher at Sampson, Denton says she still encourages people to return to school, despite their age, and study at the local college. Starling thanked Denton for her continued support.
“You will continue to give through your generosity,” Starling said about Denton’s gift.
The endowment will be used to help students who wish to be a part of the nursing program or cosmetology program.