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Ralph and Gwen Bates

Gwen: Former two-term board member, Child Care and Learning Center; three-term board member of Food Pantry; volunteer for Rappahannock Association for Arts and Community (RAAC) Community Theatre and Art Tour; mentor, Headwaters Starfish program. Former Peace Corps staff, senior program manager for several federal organizations, and later operated private management consulting business.

Ralph: Board member and fiscal vice president of RAAC and member of its Theatre Committee; board member, Krebser Fund; board member of Rapp at Home; former board member of the Rappahannock County Conservation Alliance, Belle Meade School and Headwaters; former Peace Corps volunteer and staff, retired after 30 years as a management and organizational change consultant.

Gwen and Ralph have lived in Huntly for 14 years.

Motivating Spark: 

Gwen: After raising two children and retiring from a fulfilling career, I wanted to stay active, give back to the community, and help make a difference in peoples’ lives. Moving here has provided numerous volunteer opportunities that allow one to get involved in a personal and satisfying way. 

Ralph: Community service was something I was engaged in throughout high school and college, so President John F. Kennedy’s call to service through the Peace Corp had great appeal to me. Forty-one years after my Peace Corp service, we moved to this beautiful place where I found I could easily engage in community service.

Proudest Achievement:

Gwen: Hands down, raising two wonderful children. But in terms of volunteering, my work as a mentee with the Starfish Program. I am hopeful that our ten-year relationship and the opportunities we shared will help her to continue to make choices that will enhance her life and help her live her dreams.

Ralph: Our two kids. Gwen and I raised two children who are deeply committed to community service. They have taken our life’s devotion to the environment, and making people’s lives healthier and happier, up a number of levels. Now they are models for us to follow our personal values more consistently.

Biggest Challenge:

Gwen: My mother died when I was ten years old. It was a life changing event that was a fundamental challenge for a very long time. Shortly thereafter, my father remarried. My step mother was quite different than my mother, more like a friend than a parent. That was difficult to work through. Fortunately, we lived in a small rural community where I received strong support from many aunts, uncles and family friends.

Ralph: Leading an educational and professional development program for a 6,000-person multinational information technology corporation. It was the late 1990s and the internet was expanding as an education platform. We were breaking new ground, creating a multi-faceted online “university” which covered all aspects of learning and professional development.

Why It Matters:

Gwen: Community organizations in this county are so effective because they are supported by dedicated groups of volunteers and donors. This generosity allows these organizations to operate with little overhead costs with the savings passed on to those in need. Volunteering is a personally enriching experience that has always given back more to me than what I have contributed.

Ralph: Volunteering provides an opportunity to invest your time, energy, and talent toward a worthy cause. Expanding the definition of altruism, the return from that commitment is the deep satisfaction of knowing that people may be enriched by your efforts. That’s the secret sauce of volunteering — helping those in need and feeling good about it.

Favorite Rappahannock Treasure:

Gwen: The wonderful people we’ve gotten to know since moving here. They are the best treasures, providing a rich, stimulating environment as we move through our “senior” years.

Ralph: I think the tag line on my emails says it all: “Ahhhh … life in the country … sweet!” And the people make it even sweeter!!

 — Bob Hurley for Foothills Forum


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