The basics: Dr. Mylene Rucker, 65, is a Visalia physician who operates a solo family practice. She is divorced and has two grown children.
Why she does it: For the past five years, she and a group of friends have created gift baskets for the women and children at Mothering Heights, a recovery center in Visalia for women overcoming substance-abuse problems. Using donated items and items purchased, they meet at Rucker’s medical office to assemble the baskets.
Why she does it: “I like to give back. I feel better when I give. They’ve even done studies with Mother Teresa and stuff — when you give, you feel happy.”
The turning point: About 10 years ago, Rucker and a friend started a support group they named Sister Friends. They decided to do a community service project and the Christmas gift baskets project was born.
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Details, details: Mylene Rucker was raised in Los Angeles and lived in Ghana for a year in the late 1960s. After returning to the United States, she earned a degree in zoology and became a physician’s assistant. Although single and raising two children, she entered medical school at age 32 and graduated from the Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science in Los Angeles. She also has a master’s degree in public health.
Rucker came to Visalia in 1998 to work as a physician at a medical clinic, then opened her own practice. Unlike many private-practice physicians, she accepts Medi-Cal patients and even does house calls. She also grows vegetables in a garden next to her office and gives them to patients.
A few times a year, she goes to Allensworth and offers free medical screenings to undocumented immigrants. When an earthquake struck Haiti in 2010, she spent a week there as a volunteer doctor.
What others say: “She tends to keep things exciting,” said Joyce Blackwell, Rucker’s retired office manager. “She has a very colorful personality. She loves to be around people. I don’t know where she gets the energy. She just goes and goes and goes. She’s just very generous. Sometimes I think her heart is too big for her own good.”
How you can help: Anyone wishing to donate gift items for Christmas baskets should call Rucker’s office at (559) 635-1746.
— Lewis Griswold