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Writer advocates for foster children

Valentine Davies Award: Aaron Ruben

Aaron Ruben was surprised to find that he had been tapped to receive the WGAW’s Valentine Davies Award for Community Service. Ruben, who is being recognized for decades of service involving foster children and hospice work, thought it unusual that the guild was rewarding him for community involvement.

“I never tied the two together,” he says.

A member of the guild since the 1940s, Ruben wrote for George Burns and Gracie Allen in the radio days, then went on to have a career spanning 50 years, writing for TV series such as “The Andy Griffith Show,” “Gomer Pyle,” “Sanford and Son” and “Matlock.”His involvement with children’s causes began when he and his wife, actress Maureen Arthur, dropped off some Christmas presents at County-USC Medical Center almost 25 years ago. After meeting with the children and passing out their gifts, Ruben and Arthur were inspired to put on skits for children every weekend. After eight years of weekly visits to hospitals and children’s shelters, Ruben became a court appointed special advocate (CASA).

For the past 16 years, Ruben’s task as a CASA has been to advocate on behalf of children in the Los Angeles foster care system. He still keeps in contact with the first child he worked with: a teenage girl whose parents died in a murder-suicide. That first case was a challenge, he recalls. “She said, ‘You know I’ve never had a father figure, so it’s not going to be easy.’ I said, ‘Well, we’ll take it a step at a time.’ ”

Ruben stuck with her, helping her through college. Today she has a master’s degree and counsels children with similar struggles to her own. Over the years, Ruben has worked with dozens of such children, many of whom he has lasting relationships with. He doesn’t let their difficult situations intimidate him, he says.

“We try not to let it break our hearts because like I always say, they don’t need our tears, they need our help.”

At 89, Ruben attributes his longevity to his work. “I have this fantasy that once a year St. Peter appears before God and they go over the list of people that they’re ready to take and my name comes up. God says, is he still doing that work with the kids? Ah, let him stick around a little longer.”

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