Peggy Ross moved into The Gatesworth more than two years ago because she needed help caring for her husband, who had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. “I came because I needed help, but I stayed because it’s such a wonderful place to live,” she says. And the change of setting didn’t mean the 20-year supporter of The Scholarship Foundation of St. Louis was going to give up on her passion of making education accessible. “I’ve been doing it for a long time, and I’ll keep going as long as I can,” she says.
Ross served on the board of The Scholarship Foundation for 10 years, including stints as VP, and also co-chaired the capital campaign to expand ScholarShop, one of two upscale resale shops that help provide funds for the Foundation. The nonprofit gives interest-free loans to students for post-secondary education, as well as technical college and graduate programs. “They can use the money for tuition, but we give it to the student.” That means they can use the funds wherever they’re most needed, whether that be tuition, books, travel or daycare for a child.
And while the nonprofit gave out $3.6 million in interest-free loans and grants in 2011, it is enjoying a 97 percent repayment rate. “One in six donors is a former recipient,” Ross says. Though she’s no longer on the board, she plans on joining a new advisory group of former board members. “It’s a wonderful group of people to work with, and I’m always thrilled when I do it.”
Gatesworth resident Henrietta Freedman also believes strongly in the value of education, which led her to co-found The Lifelong Learning Institute at Washington University. When approached with the idea, she says, “I was excited because it was something I thought both Washington University and people in St. Louis would benefit from. If the need is there, then I want to be involved.” The program is open to anyone and courses include creative writing, economics, archaeology, art history and much more. “It’s all peer-learning, so there are no professors; there are facilitators. We teach each other. We keep the process of learning going. It adds something to this time of life.”
Freedman and her husband have both taken classes in the program for 16 years. “They’re an important part of our lives,” she says. “You meet people you wouldn’t ordinarily meet. And you talk about the last opera that you studied or the last novel you read. It just keeps the mind going.”
Gladys Barker retired after 27 years as facilitator at OASIS Contemporary Issues, which brings in well-known speakers to discuss often-controversial topics, and is now working with OASIS for its Founder’s Day Celebration. “It’s a very exciting time. I’m helping coordinate with OASIS and The Gatesworth. We’re trying to get together activities that would educate, entertain and improve our respective communities.”
As an occupational therapist, Barker worked with geriatric patients to help bring them to their highest physical and mental abilities. She also worked for many years with Miriam Foundation, which supports the Miriam School, where her varied roles included that of president. She also is on the executive board of the Resident’s Association of The Gatesworth. Her nonprofit work has earned her recognition from Gateway OWL (The Voice of Midlife and Older Women), St. Andrew’s Resources for Seniors, Washington University and OASIS.
“As long as I’m living, I need to contribute,” she says. “Other people have gotten me to where I am, and I need to give back now. If I couldn’t, I wouldn’t feel it was worth living. I think what you can be, you ought to be—and that’s what I try to do.”