Her column, “Astoria Characters,” appears in this newspaper, and is also published on The Huffington Post website. It tells the stories of everyday people, their struggles, triumphs and successes.
On Sunday, more than 100 “Astoria characters” and their supporters filled the Variety Boys and Girls Club of Queens for an event to celebrate their stories.
“This is like an enormous family reunion,” Ruhling said. “In my wildest dreams, I never expected this to happen.”
Ruhling, who was new to Astoria before writing these profiles, used to sit on her porch and wave at neighbors walking by.
“I wonder who those people are,” she remembered thinking, “I wonder what their stories are.”
Eight years later, she has told the stories of small business owners, basketball coaches, educators, dancers, seniors and people from all backgrounds.
Brendan Fay, an Astoria resident behind the annual St. Pat's For All parade in Sunnyside and Woodside, said Ruhling tells the stories of people who are often forgotten.
“That this prominent journalist would take the time to tell these stories is incredible,” he said. “The heart of any community is its people. She opened up the heart of the community to say, ‘This is what Astoria is all about.’”
Others profiled in her column, including Coach Lloyd who is known for raising money for basketball camp on the N train and Eric Mathews, who runs a nonprofit to promote physical fitness and nutrition in Astoria, also attested to the power of her stories.
“This is about you,” Ruhling said, thanking all of the people whose stories have given hope to readers. “I can’t tell your stories without you.”