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Making a Difference; the Ruth Harrington Way


In 1973, Ruth Harrington saw her love of cooking as a way to bring together the staff of Central Washington University and Ellensburg community and used it as the catalyst for organizing scholarship luncheons. This scholarship program began as a coffee hour at Harrington’s house with 22 women paying $1.50 each. By the end of the first year, participants grew to 22 separate groups, each with 12 members.

Harrington wanted to improve upon and grow the relationships between the townspeople and university, so she saw her affinity for cooking as a way to assist in bringing everybody together. This was the motivation she used to begin doing these scholarship luncheons. After working with many community members and the university, she was able to create a community working on a worthy cause.

The scholarship program first started in 1973 as a coffee hour at Harrington’s house. 22 women paid $1.50 each. By the end of the first year, participants grew to 22 separate groups, each with 12 members.

What started as a simple coffee hour has now turned into 60 groups of people, including several in Yakima, Cle Elum and Ellensburg. The cost of brunch, lunch, and dinner gatherings is $5 or to be a member for the year, a $50 charge is required. To accommodate those that are unable to meet during lunch hour, or work out of town, Ruth holds brunches on Saturdays. Most groups include participants from the college university and local community. The groups meet monthly throughout the school year and all the money generated, is given directly to the scholarships.

“What we make each year we give away in June and start fundraising again in September.”

“I am very old fashioned,” Harrington said, as she keeps track of everything and everyone by handwritten notes. In an effort to remind members of the place and time of the next meeting or to invite new-comers to the events, Harrington will contact everyone personally. A personal connection with all of the groups’ members is important to her, and her effort is paying off.

When asked what her motives are, she simply said,

“I love people and I love cooking. This project has been a lot of fun.”

Harrington plans her days around these events and she personally tries to attend one or two a day.

Known as a welcoming soul, she makes sure that new comers feel comfortable. When new people move to town, they can expect a call from Harrington, as she is sure to find a home for everybody.

With all of her hard work she is funding the “Ruth Harrington Scholarship”. This scholarship is meant for households with a single parent or local high school seniors that will be attending Central the following school year. Aiming to help those in need, Ruth has set a goal for herself and for those that attend her luncheons,

“I’m close to reaching $1 million, I hope to reach that before I retire” she said.

Harrington’s dedication is immeasurable and thoroughly recognized. With the scholarship luncheons, she brings people together and raises money for a worthy cause. She has become a staple in the lives of CWU students and the Central Washington community.

If you are interested in becoming a part of the scholarship luncheons or have any questions, please email the Alumni Office for more information.

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