Charlene "Char" Cove Russell influenced the lives of many with her compassion, humor, love for family and friends, and her dedication to the profession of social work.
Char Russell graduated from Eastern Nazarene College in Boston, Mass. She earned her Master's of Social Work from Western Michigan University while on staff at Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services in Grand Rapids, Mich.
Her skills blossomed and flourished during her 18-year career as a social worker for Forest Hills Public Schools in Grand Rapids. There, she specialized in helping students with ADHD and autism, and their families.
"One important thing was her professionalism," said her mother-in-law, Charlotte Russell. "Char had an incredible gift for communication especially with children. She was able to get kids to open up and share in a special way."
Char Russell also used humor, art and acting to help children, creating a weekly game show for autistic elementary school students called "What's My Problem." Whether teaching in the classroom, singing in her church choir or performing in a skit, her generous spirit touched the lives of many.
In 2005, she succumbed to breast cancer. One friend shared, "She seemed to care less about the impact her illness had on herself than on those near and dear to her tender heart. Char always cheered for the underdog, the disenfranchised, the damaged and cast-off."
In 2006, family and friends invited others who knew her to help create the Charlene Cove Russell Endowment in Social Work. The scholarship was established in 2009. "We felt that it was important that through those whose lives she touched, her gift could be continued," said Charlotte Russell, "That others who are able, will continue to work with students and make a change in children's lives. It's a chance for people to know that she was unique and to encourage others."
Donations to the fund are encouraged. "Char was a recipient of scholarship funds and so was I," commented Charlotte Russell. "We benefitted from other people giving, and we're hoping that that will be the case here. I can think of no better way to honor her."