Repaying Rebecca Rutledge for Her Generosity

These two people helped a community.  Now, the community can give back ...

It starts with a love story
Rebecca and Doug Rutledge shared the kind of bond that most people only dream of. 
They met in the summer of 1995 at the Capital University library, and were married a year later at the Park of Roses, with family and friends  gathered around. 
The bond that kept Doug and Rebecca together was greatly based on a shared sense of dedication to uplifting and giving voice to the underdog. Though neither came from wealth or abundance, and both had  tumultuous family upbringings, both Doug and Rebecca continually made it   their main priority to help those in need, sharing whatever resources     they had.
By 2002, their mutual love for books and literature led them to create Areopagitica Bookstore in Clintonville, which quickly morphed into a neighborhood hangout for many quirky “High Street characters,” according to Rebecca. The bookstore served as a community hub, holding poetry and writing workshops, and opened its doors to the Columbus Folk Music Society  soon thereafter. 
During the golden years of the bookstore, Doug collaborated with photographer Abdi Roble on The Somali Diaspora: A Journey Away  , published in 2008, giving a face and voice to the otherwise unheard and unseen.
Rebecca would always tease Doug that he was “Midwest-modest”. He had a PhD in Shakespeare from the University of Chicago, as well as an MFA. They fell in love talking about books, analyzing movies, and daydreaming together. When they had free time, they chose to spend it biking and walking around Clintonville. In many ways, it felt like the Folk Music Society really took them in, Rebecca said. 
The End of an Era
By 2009, the economy was in free fall and the Rutledges could no longer afford to keep the bookstore. Doug began working as a counselor for Jewish Family Services, helping pair unemployed, displaced African refugees with jobs. Rebecca began teaching ESL in a local church basement, but only a few years later, funding for the program decreased and she was left jobless.
The next decade would prove financially exhausting for Doug and Rebecca, and in June 2018, Doug fell ill. The next few months were a blur for Rebecca, as she went on an involuntary rollercoaster of emotions – being told by doctors that Doug’s bone marrow transplant would be the answer to their prayers. But Doug’s recovery proved less successful than earlier thought, and in the summer of 2019, he was struggling more with each passing day. The last week of his life, he was put on a breathing machine and had a stroke. Rebecca was by his side throughout the whole process and read aloud to him books like Watership Down and Harry Potter. 
Doug died on September 1, 2019 . Rebecca and six of Doug’s closest friends were at his side as he passed away. 
A New Beginning
During the latter months of 2019 and early into 2020, Rebecca has spent reminiscing about their quarter-century together. While going through old letters, she found a note Doug had left her before going off to Somalia. “Coming back to you is the best part of going away,” it read.
Aside from the overwhelming grief, Rebecca also has literal mountains of paperwork and bills to comb through, preceeding Doug’s passing. Their shared home has been left the way it was when Doug fell ill: halfway through kitchen renovation and never completed. The place that was once her happiest shared space with the love of her life has turned into a nightmare of debts, responsibilities, and half-completed projects. The formerly shared spaces bring back memories, then tears. 
The goal of this Go Fund Me is to help carry the financial burden of Doug’s passing. Relying mainly on Doug’s income to pay the mortgage, Rebecca is unable to pay the mortgage as well as the hospital costs that Doug incurred. She also has no access to his social security benefits for another several years.
Doug and Rebecca selflessly opened up their bookstore to anyone in the community who needed a second home: folkies, refugees, misfits, booklovers. Our intention with this campaign is to lighten the load of massive responsibility that Rebecca is faced with. If we can get anything close to the $10,000 goal, we could potentially help Rebecca repair her house enough to get it in true living condition. $10,000 isn’t much in the grand scheme of hospital bills and home construction, but it would at least cut down on the stress associated with the short-term needs that Rebecca is incurring every day. 
Our goal is to help Rebecca channel the strength that Doug always impressed upon her throughout their decades-long life together. 
Rebecca says she is certain that Doug would've wanted her  to be looking for the next opportunity to give back to the community using her skills and passion. Although she  doesn’t yet know what that will be or what it might look like,  she's sure that opportunity will arrive at the right time, and she’s excited to know what it is.  "The bookstore was a way we could offer something to give back to the community." 
For years, the Rutledges gave abundantly to the community they served; now it is our chance to give back.


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Organizer and beneficiary

Randi W Cohen 
Columbus, OH
Rebecca Rutledge 
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