From time to time, we all do good deeds such as offer a helping hand, show kindness to a strangers, or maybe volunteer in an organization.
However, there are those few whose humanitarian dedication never ceases. Case in point, Les and Sandra Ruefenacht and Jack Fleihmann (the author of the “Letter to the City” on page 2) are outstanding examples of Concord’s relentess Samaritans.
Retired, 80-year-old Les Ruefenacht builds desks for low-income students. Without a crew, Ruefenacht purchases the lumber, cuts it, sands it, assembles and in some cases even delivers the desks to those who request it. Not bad for a one-man team. To date, he estimates he’s delivered over 200 desks to homes in Concord, Pleasant Hill, Bay Point, San Jose, or anyone within a 40-mile radius.
Each desk (20 inches deep, 32 inches long and 28 inches high) includes a study lamp, a six-socket power strip and two USB ports. He makes 2-3 per day. Each costs him about $65 in materials.
The idea came after he and his wife, Sandra, watched a report on “World News Tonight” that featured a desk-making group in Maryland. Sandra convinced him that with his woodworking skills he could do that here and provide free desks to low-income students to support educational equity during the pandemic.
Before the pandemic, Ruefenacht made wooden “buddy dog” toys for children with cancer and chronic illnesses in Children’s hospitals across Northern California. But the hospitals stopped accepting them due to the COVID-19.
In 2004, Ruefenacht helped found Dogs 4 Diabetes (D4D), which provides and trains dogs to detect hypo- and hyper-glycemia at an 80%-99% success rate. Up until then, 50% detection was the standard. D4D also provides and trains service and buddy dogs at no cost to first responders suffering from PTSD.
”All my life, I’ve been involved in doing something for others,” Ruefenacht says. ”That was impressed upon me growing up.” He plans to keep at it as long as help is needed.
Meanwhile, wife Sandra has been in the kitchen preparing close to 500 oatmeal, applesauce, or raisin cookies a week to give to Jack Fleihmann who passes them out to the Concord homeless.
The Diablo Gazette featured Fleihmann in August 2020. Fleihmann has been preparing and delivering food, clothing, shoes, blankets, sleeping bags, and sometimes tents to Concord homeless for the past 13 months starting at 3 A.M. each day.
He even picks up the tab each week for the homeless who grab a bite at Best Little Donut Shop in Concord. While much of this is out-of-pocket, since the August feature, he has received donations of food and supplies from concerned individuals and welcomes them to accompany him on his daily visits to homeless camps.
Fleihmann continues to plead with the City and with the county’s Core Program (Community Organized Relief Effort) for support on behalf of those with serious medical needs or are in life-threatening conditions, with occasional success.
Fleihmann’s ultimate goal is to humanize the homeless and provide some comfort and care until a permanent solution can elevate them to better conditions. He posts his daily activities on Facebook, and introduces those he serves, all of them gracious for Jack and his team of empathetic volunteers.
There may be others, but these relentless Samaritans are driven by heart, seeking to provide love and kindness, and at times, life-saving essentials to those that need this care. For their efforts, they receive no compensation. Concord is indeed fortunate to have them.