Each year Shepherd’s Hope recognizes four of its nearly 1,800 volunteers with the Dr. Ruth McKeefery Award, named in honor of the organization’s first volunteer executive director. This is the first year for the clinical practitioner category, in which Ritten was recognized.

“Dr. Ritten truly goes above and beyond to provide compassionate care to our patients, to assist fellow volunteers, and to inspire her students’ passion for learning and caring for others,” says Martha Mannarino, vice president of communications and development at Shepherd’s Hope, Inc. “She, like all of our volunteers, comes here quietly, humbly and out of the goodness of her heart to give back to the community. Our organization is incredibly thankful for her commitment to both our patients and her students, and we were honored to surprise her with the award.”

Ritten has been volunteering weekly since 2010 with Shepherd’s Hope, a faith-based organization of volunteers that provides access to free health care for thousands of uninsured men, women and children. She also engages her nurse practitioner students in the organization to enhance their understanding of health care disparities in the community and learn from the medically underserved. The topic is not only one she’s passionate about, but one she is currently exploring further as an area of funded research.

“Using my skills as a nurse practitioner to deliver medical care to those who cannot afford it is just the right thing to do,” says Ritten. “Shepherd’s Hope is vital to Central Florida, providing individuals with the opportunity to achieve health and for some, preserve life. It is an honor for me to be part of the generous, talented team of volunteers and staff who come together to make a difference for individuals and ultimately our entire community.”

Shepherd’s Hope presented Ritten with the Volunteer of the Year award at the organization’s annual Call to Hope Fundraising Breakfast on April 9, 2015. In 2014, Shepherd’s Hope had more than 1,800 volunteers dedicate over 38,310 hours totaling more than $2.1 million of in-kind volunteer hours at its five health centers.