Ruth Collins, founder of Arizona Brainfood

Ruth Collins, founder of Arizona Brainfood, is the 2018 Mesa Woman of the Year.

Two longtime community volunteers have been named the Mesa Citizens of the year.

Ruth Collins, a lifelong Mesa resident who founded a program to get food to hungry school kids on the weekend, is the 2018 Mesa Woman of the Year. Steve West, who has served with distinction on a number of Mesa nonprofit boards, is the 2018 Mesa Man of the Year.

Collins and West will be feted at the Mesa Citizens of the Year Association’s annual banquet on Feb. 19 at the Hilton Phoenix/Mesa.

Collins has followed in the footsteps of her parents, Ross and Anita Farnsworth, “who served the Mesa community in significant ways and instilled in their large family a great desire to volunteer and help those in need,” said Mike Hutchinson, spokesman for the citizens association.

“For many years, Ruth was an active participant in her family’s community activities as well as school and church volunteer duties,” he added.

Collins’ signature community activity stemmed from her concern that many impoverished school children who qualified for free or reduced price lunches during the week did not have access to food on the weekend.

So the mother of four started Arizona Brainfood in 2008, which prepares weekend bags of food for school children in need.

What started as a program feeding 100 kids at two schools has blossomed into a program serving more than 3,600 children at 115 East Valley schools.

“All this work is done by over 100 volunteers who donate more than 6,000 hours of service annually,” Hutchinson said, quoting a nomination for her citizen of the year award who stated:

 “The spirit of service displayed by Ruth Collins is the spirit of Mesa – taking care of those in need.”

Hutchinson added that Collins’ “willingness to work without recompense is admirable and epitomizes the spirit of our city” and called her “an amazing example of what one person can do when they are dedicated and driven by compassion for others.”

West has served on the Mesa Baseline Rotary Club, Mesa Chamber of Commerce, Mesa United Way Grand Canyon Council, Boy Scouts of America, the East Valley Partnership, Mesa Boys and Girls Club, the East Valley Institute of Technology and Visit Mesa.

His community service spans 30 years, beginning as a member of the City of Mesa Museum and Cultural Advisory Board.

“Steve is an individual who is always willing to assume leadership roles in the organizations where he serves,” Hutchinson said. “One notable example of his volunteer service was his work as the co-chair for the 2010-11 Mesa United Way Annual Campaign. Although Mesa was still feeling the serious effects of the great recession, the campaign met its goal.”

West has also served in a variety of capacities for his church and several professional legal societies.

The Mesa Citizen of the Year Association is one of the oldest groups of its kind in Arizona. Founded in 1935 by first nominating a man of the year, it eventually began nominating both a man and a woman annually for recognition of their contributions to Mesa.

Each year’s awardees are selected by a committee of previous winners who review nominations from the community.

More recently, the association has also recognized Mesa high school seniors who have provided exemplary volunteer service in their school and the community.

Tickets for the banquet: or Debby Elliot at 602-397-5576.

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