Helen Ruth is the director of philanthropy for the NC Rural Center. In this capacity, she works closely to set the strategic direction of the Center’s fundraising efforts and to build strategic funding relationships with individuals, corporations and foundations across the state and nationally. She holds B.S. and M.S. degrees from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Public Health.
While she is a new member of the Rural Center team, Helen Ruth has worked with the organization since 2004. She was a REDI graduate in 2011 and most recently was a member of the NC Rural Center Board of Directors. She brings extensive experience in marketing, fundraising, regional collaborations, and asset-based economic development strategies that benefit rural communities in North Carolina.
Prior to her new role, she was the Executive Director of the Alleghany Memorial Hospital Foundation and the Director of Marketing and Public Relations for Alleghany Health, an affiliate of Wake Forest Baptist Health and Hugh Chatham Memorial Hospital in Sparta. Helen Ruth’s prior consulting work included project management for the Yadkin Valley Heritage Corridor Partnership, a 4-county regional initiative, and resource development work with Central Piedmont Community College, Catawba Valley Community College, Stokes County Arts Council, the Town of Pilot Mountain, and Stokes County Economic Development. From 2005-2009, Helen Ruth worked for the NC Department of Commerce, Division of Travel & Tourism in Northwest NC to assist communities with tourism development projects to protect and promote the rich heritage assets of Northwest NC.
In her earlier career, Helen Ruth was an entrepreneur and founded Helen Ruth’s Specialty Foods, Inc. in 1998. She brought to market three gourmet sauces for the specialty food industry and is still fondly known today as “the Catsup Lady” for Helen Ruth’s Carolina style Catsup. Following graduate school, she worked at Ernst & Whinney in healthcare consulting before moving on to be the first Marketing and Development Director for the Charlotte/Mecklenburg Library System where she organized the Novello Festival of Reading, the largest literary festival in the country at that time.
Born and raised in rural NC, Helen Ruth grew up in Greenville. She has had a lifelong love of horses beginning with her childhood companion, Queenie, her Shetland pony she rode around town for transportation. After attending UNC-Chapel Hill for her undergraduate work, her wanderlust spirit kicked in, and she headed for Washington, D.C. to work on Capitol Hill and then to Houston before heading on an around the world trip backpacking with a close girlfriend. Following graduate school, she lived and worked in Charlotte for nearly 20 years and now lives with her husband, Michael, on their farm in Piney Creek with her horse, dogs, donkeys and numerous wild critters around and about the farm. In her free time she enjoys reading, gardening, and hiking in the Blueridge mountains. Helen Ruth is a graduate of the NC Rural Economic Development Institute, is certified as a Travel Marketing Professional by the Southeast Tourism Society Marketing College, is a current board member of the Alleghany County Chamber of Commerce, and is a past board member of the NC Rural Center, Blue Ridge Conservancy, Alleghany Community Foundation, Museum of the New South in Charlotte, and the Bioethics Resource Group also located in Charlotte.