The Greater Richmond ARC has been know for more than 50 years as a place where lives are changed for the better through work programs, individual therapy sessions and camp experiences.
Occasionally, Cupid comes calling.
Melvin Cary Jackson, an employee at the Jefferson Hotel's T.J. Lounge, began working with ARC employment counselors when he moved to Richmond from Tidewater, Virginia, in the late 1990s. A hard-working, affable man with an infectious smile and gentle demeanor, Melvin was looking for companionship once he'd settled into his new digs, so he asked his former ARC job coach, Stephanie Crabtree, if she knew any single women in the area.
As a matter of fact, Crabtree did know someone whom Melvin might find interesting -- and who might also be interested in Melvin. She gave Melvin a phone number and told him to call her the next day.
Crabtree had former ARC client, Ruth Evelyn Young, in mind. Ruth came to ARC in 1993 and landed a job at K-Mart with Crabtree's assistance. Melvin called Ruth the next day and they agreed to meet at Willow Lawn Mall with Crabtree acting as chaperone. It was a case of mutual attraction at first sight, so they next agreed to an 'official' first date at the Science Museum of Virginia.
Fast forward several years later to the 2007 annual ARC Banquet at Jefferson-Lakeside Country Club. At the beginning of the evening, Melvin announced to a round of applause that he and Ruth were engaged to be married. After dinner they danced close to the romantic strains of Lionel Richie played by Lite 98's D.J.
During a recent visit to ARC, both were asked what each likes most about the other. Ruth, a soft-spoken lady with long brown tied back in a pony tail, said she loves Melvin because he is 'very polite, nice, and brings me gifts.' When asked what Melvin likes most about Ruth, Melvin smiled broadly, looked at Ruth and patted her on her knee. 'Everything,' he said.
The couple plans a 2008 wedding though no official date is set. When asked if Melvin had produced a ring as part of the proposal, Ruth proudly showed off the engagement diamond. 'Melvin was so nervous,' she added. 'He was over at my mother's house where I live now and said, 'Will you be my husband? 'No,' I said, 'But I'll be your wife!'