- (Jeff Ruby Culinary Entertainment)
COLUMBUS, Ohio - Ohio-based restaurateur Jeff Ruby of Jeff Ruby Culinary Entertainment has wined and dined celebrities and dignitaries alike, but food isn't his only passion. He's also committed to helping vulnerable youths.
Ruby grew up without a father in his life, and says he was on the wrong track until a football coach stepped up to provide him with guidance and support. He believes just one positive connection in a kid's life can change their trajectory.
"I was a loser and loving every minute of it," says Ruby. "Drinking at 13, getting drunk, and this coach took me under. And all of a sudden I had someone that I wanted to be like, that I wanted to impress, that I wanted to be proud. I know what that coach did to change my life. So I've been changing other kids' lives ever since."
Ruby has acted as a surrogate father to numerous teenage boys over the years. He's sharing his story as a keynote speaker at the Public Children Services Association of Ohio's 2019 Conference, which kicks off today in Columbus.
Ruby says his family wanted to build upon his efforts, and created The Jeff Ruby Foundation in 2018. He explains the focus is addressing child poverty, hunger and the foster-care system.
"The foster-care program is overwhelmed, underfunded and understaffed," says Ruby. "And we need to help, and that's why I wanted to focus my energy, using the platform that I have to the best of my ability."
Ruby believes it will take awareness, education and inspiration to help foster youths succeed as they grow. He notes that creating change begins at the top.
"Gov. (Mike) DeWine, I've talked to him about this," says Ruby. "I've talked to (Attorney General) Jon Husted, too. And I've been impressed with the values of both how they feel about these type of issues. And that's really good, that's where it starts."
Hundreds of people involved in child protection will be on hand at the conference, and will discuss strategies to improve practices and better support children-services workers.