I think it is important for families to have gathering places. It may be as simple as your parents’ living room on Christmas morning. Some families might gather at a favorite restaurant every month or so. Others might have an annual vacation where everyone blocks out a whole week to go to the same beach the family has visited for decades.
Gathering places create memories and breed nostalgia. They put everyone at ease, offering a sense of familiarity and comfort that often eludes us in daily life. The bonds of a family grow stronger in gathering places.
Our family is blessed to have a number of wonderful gathering places. One is particularly special though, because it connects everyone in my family to Ray in a very meaningful way. We call it Lost Valley.
In the early-2000s, Ray and his wife Pat decided to build this vacation home in the mountains of North Carolina just across the border with Georgia. They worked together to design it, with Pat focused on creating a warm and inviting home and Ray focused on greening it. Both succeeded, and to this day it is a solar powered net-zero home to which we all love returning.
The best aspect of the home might be how hard it is to get to. While only two and half hours away from Atlanta, the last fifteen minutes are journeyed along narrow mountain roads, including a steep mile at the end entirely on gravel. “Secluded” is not a strong enough word, and you feel like you have truly retreated upon arrival.
This past weekend, my wife (Chantel), brothers (Jay and Patrick), sister-in-law (Whitney) and cousin (McCall) all spent a retreat weekend together. Along with my other cousin (Melissa), we make up the NextGen Committee for the Foundation. Each year, the Trustees ask that this Committee identify nonprofit grants totaling $50,000 that we believe can make a difference in advancing the Foundation’s mission. Through the process, we all gain experience in being effective philanthropists.
As a Committee, we recognize that environmental challenges present themselves in a wide variety of contexts. Accordingly, we have created four grant priorities, with our interest being focused on the intersection of each with environmentalism: health, community, education and wild spaces. These reflect the various passions that our Committee shares, and I think they give us a great opportunity to make a meaningful impact.
It’s remarkable how well we all work together, which makes these meetings feel much more like fun than like work. This meeting was no different, and I believe that we did a great job of strengthening our effectiveness as a group.
Going forward, I’ll be sure to write about the NextGen Committee grants that we make. For now though, I want to end with my gratitude. To the NextGen Committee, thank you for your insights and commitment. To the Trustees, thank you for the opportunity to work with my family in this way. And to Ray, thank you for building such an amazing gathering place where we can work to advance your legacy!
Click here to read an article about Lost Valley from Living in Atlanta - Spring 2004.