Volunteer Story: A Taste of Home

After spending the day at Duke Cancer Institute for treatment, the last thing on our guests’
minds is what to eat for dinner. The hassle, energy, and time needed to make a nutritious meal
are sometimes out of the question. That’s where our meal volunteers come in.

Les Rutt considers Durham home. As an experienced early-phase oncology Clinical Research
Associate at the Sarah Cannon Research Institute, he has an extensive professional connection
to cancer, but also a personal one. He lost both his father and mother to cancer, impacting his
life directly. Raised by a service-oriented family and a father who pastored at local churches,
Les knows the importance of giving back to his community. He’s sought out volunteer roles all
his life – at church, through jail ministry, with food services, and he even helped build homes for
unhoused people.

“There’s just something about doing for others. That’s how we were raised. We were raised to
you know, be part of the golden rule, do unto others, do for others. It was done for us when both
Dad got sick, and when Mom got sick. You don’t forget that. You have to give back,” he said.

Once Les and his husband moved back to Durham after years in Wilmington, North Carolina,
Les was ready to jump back into volunteering.

With an infectious laugh and giving spirit, Les easily lights up a room. As he tells me about his
love for southern cooking, he notes that his mother made sure to teach all her children how to
cook. It is no wonder then, that volunteering at Caring House as a meal donor made perfect
sense for him.

“It hit me personally. It hit me professionally. It hit me spiritually. Emotionally. Everything. It hits
you in the feels kind of thing. Everything felt right. It truly could not have been a more perfect
opportunity. It just fits,” he said.

Among other meals, Les has cooked barbecue pork with all the southern fixings and mini
meatloaves with sides for guests. He enjoys sticking to foods that bring the smells and flavors of
home to Caring House. “When you’re going through cancer, sometimes you just want
something that’s comforting, that is filling, something that you know.”

He mentions that one of his favorite parts about being a meal volunteer is getting the chance to
see his impact directly and have the chance to connect with the guests. He intimately knows the
experience of having a loved one with cancer, and because of that, volunteering here has felt
like it was meant to be.

“It has only been three months, but it has been transformative for me,” he said.
Les’ monthly meals receive rave reviews from our guests. While his food brings comfort, his
kindness, friendliness, and generosity bring peace to our home.

This volunteer role has seemed to fill a part of his life that was otherwise empty. After all, there
is no doubt that food brings people together and transcends space and time. It can bring you
back to a specific moment in the past, place you in the present, or give you hope for the distant
future. And in a melancholy but serendipitous way, Leslie honors his loved ones through his

The first meal he made at Caring House? Cranberry chicken.
“It was one of my mom’s favorite meals to cook.”

Want to get involved as a meal donor? Click here for more information!

Written by: Kristen Luft, Communications Associate