Stranded at the airport in Phoenix on March 17, Rubin Swift wondered how he’d get through the next three days, sleeping on the floor with his 4-day-old daughter, Andrea. It seemed to be his only option when Frontier Airlines informed him that he couldn’t fly with the baby until he produced a birth certificate. “I was out of money and the hospital told me that I wouldn’t be able to get a birth certificate for seven days,” Rubin, 43, of Cleveland, Ohio, tells PEOPLE. “I was worried that if security saw me sleeping at the airport with a newborn, they’d take her away from me and charge me with neglect. I was stuck.”
Rubin, who had flown to Phoenix to get custody of the baby from a previous relationship, suddenly thought of the friendly Banner University Medical Center volunteer who had offered to drive him to the airport that day and had given him her phone number. He’d met Joy Ringhofer, 78, in the newborn intensive care unit, where Andrea had been placed for several days as a precautionary measure. When Rubin told Joy about his dilemma, she immediately offered to return to the airport to pick him up.
“I told him, ‘I’m going to take you home with me,’ ” she tells PEOPLE, “so wait right there.” Joy Ringhofer and baby Andrea “I couldn’t believe it,” says Rubin, who runs a small deli and has three grown children from a first marriage and four step-children with Tiffany, 32. “I’m black and she is white. I’m a stranger who grew up in the projects in the Bronx and she’s a great-grandmother who recently lost her husband. She knew very little about me, and yet, she took me in. Color wasn’t an issue to her. She showed me that in this crazy world, there is still compassion.”
On March 13, when Rubin and his wife learned that Andrea had been born, they decided that they could only afford to buy one airline ticket. So Rubin flew to Phoenix, thinking that he would be back home with the baby in a day or two. “When he called me from the airport and told me that they weren’t going to let him fly until he could get a birth certificate in four days, I felt panicked,” says Tiffany, 32, who works as a security officer in Cleveland. “We didn’t have the money for a hotel room or a rental car and I didn’t want him to sleep at the airport. I was scared because it looked like we were out of options.”
Joy and Andrea She was surprised when Rubin phoned her from Joy’s condo with the news that he’d be staying with the NICU volunteer until Andrea’s birth certificate was ready in four days. “Miss Joy was like an angel,” he tells PEOPLE, “and she’d really bonded with Andrea. Whenever my daughter heard her voice, her face would light up. As soon as she took us in, I knew we’d be friends for life.” Joy, whose husband, Charles, depart of Parkinson’s disease in October, says she had a strong feeling that she should help Rubin when she learned of his plight.
Joy and Andrea “There are a lot of dangers out there,” she tells PEOPLE, “but there’s a lot of good, too. I’d enjoyed talking to Rubin at the hospital and helping him with the baby. He was polite and kind and I could tell that he had a good heart.” During their four days together, they spent a lot of time talking about their families (Joy has four children, seven grandchildren and three great-grandchildren), going on walks with Andrea, grocery shopping and even visiting Joy’s late husband’s gr-ave. “I could see the pain in her face from losing her husband,” says Rubin, “so at the cem-tery, as we sat there with the baby, I said, ‘Hey, Charles, look — it’s your new granddaughter.’ We had some touching and wonderful moments. I lost my mom to cancer in 2007, so Joy really became like a mother or grandmother figure to me.”
Rubin and Andrea When it came time for him and the baby to return to the airport, “We just knew that we’d always be in touch from that day forward,” adds Joy, who now chats regularly via FaceTime with Rubin and Tiffany. “We started out as strangers, and ended up as good friends. Rubin is very grateful to me, but I’m also very grateful to have had the opportunity.”
Tiffany and Andrea Rubin hopes that their story will inspire others to step up and help in a stranger’s time of need. “If you see an elderly person struggling to walk home, pull over and offer a lift,” he tells PEOPLE. “If you see somebody who doesn’t have enough money for bus fare, offer to help them out. Pay it forward — that’s what I’m taking away from this. Let’s return to a time when we all cared about one another. That’s what I’m hoping will happen.”
Andrea R. James – Happy Father’s day to the new Dad. Our Creator will make a way when there seems to be no way. He will show up at the last minute and turn a troubled situation around. Many Blessings of protection for the new Dad, his daughter and the step up to the plate Grandmother. A Divine connection has been made.
Cindy King – Wow,what sweet lil lady.Who ever is her children and and grandchildren I hope they know what an amazing person she is. And just let her know how much she is loved and appreciated. Because its rare these days to see someone open their home and their heart to complete stranger. God bless them all
McKinsey Scott – She is an AMAZING woman !!! People like her make me believe this world isnt so bad after all !! God Bless her !!!! I REALLY hope they stay in touch and he brings his daughter to visit her new Grandma !!!
Mar Led – This by far, is the most beautiful video I’ve seen so far. I was in such a crappy mood until I came across this sweet video. Thank you for posting it. Many blessings to Grandma, Daddy and newborn little Princess.
Genia Glover – And stories like this need to be what we see all over the news. THIS is the epitome of an American. LOVE this. God bless him for fighting for the custody of his baby. God bless this woman for not thinking twice about taking them both in until he could take his beautiful baby home.
Betty Clark – What a beautiful story. It’s really hard to believe that someone would open their home to a total stranger in this day and age but this woman did and that is what makes her very special. God bless her and God bless this father and his daughter and keep them safe.
AllforKJ – What a Beautiful Story of Love and compassion the new adoptive grandmother was willing to show and give to the new Daddy of the baby. *I didn’t use the word Daddy lightly at all but intentionally because I sense that this young man is going to be much more than just the father of the child, but he is going to cherish his new baby girl and be the Daddy that she will need for him to be throughout her entire life. May the Lord Bless & Keep this new family bond strong.