A Rising Tide: Debbie Monaco & Ruth Bates

Although their paths to central New York were a bit different, both Debbie and Ruth now enjoy having family nearby as they enter retirement – or almost retirement. Debbie works in HR/Accounting, and her hobbies include reading and birdwatching. Ruth passed along her passion for engineering to her daughter, and now loves to help other women in need.

Kia: Shared leadership seems to be a hallmark of your chapter. Was it always that way?

Debbie: Yes, it has always been shared. I think we’ve had good fortune in that people step up to present, host, or lead.

Ruth: We have many intelligent women in our chapter and people are very interested in the topics, so they often volunteer to learn more about the programs we support. We also are not shy about asking people for help. For the first time we’re about to have the same host two months in a row, so we’ve always had a good rotation. As people retire, some schedules are freeing up and others are less available, but we have always had a central group.


Kia: Your chapter is celebrating 13 years in 2023. Why do you think you’ve been able to keep the chapter going so long?

Debbie: The social aspect has helped. People really like each other.

Ruth: Exactly. We have good conversations, so people enjoy it! We are also consistent. Throughout the years we keep meeting, although we take July and August off, and are flexible with our meetings.

Debbie: We actually go month to month on deciding when we’ll meet. At the Seneca Falls event, I learned that many chapters meet on the same day every month, but for us, the opposite approach has worked.


Kia: You are currently experimenting with your form of gathering. Can you talk more about that?

Debbie: Since we’ve had this chapter for over a decade, people are aging into retirement and their schedules are changing. People are going away for winter, traveling, and when it gets dark at 5 pm, people don’t want to drive at night. In January, we started thinking about having lunches instead of potluck dinners. We’ve now done 3-4 in a row because our members liked it so much. We still go month to month on deciding when to meet, and we listen to what people like.

Ruth: People are very vocal about what they like, so we try and schedule what people want to do.


Kia: Do you participate in other Rise opportunities, like the book club?

Ruth: I have been doing advocacy with Leslye Heilig for a long time and think it makes such a difference. We have a monthly meeting and I enjoy that. I also attend the monthly webinars when I can. Some of our chapter members have joined the book club and talk about it at our meetings.

Debbie: I’m currently reading one of the book club reads, Secrets of the Sprakkar. We always announce the different Rise events at our meetings, and I know some members join the monthly webinars to get more information about the grantees. I don’t think anyone in our chapter has gone on a Rise trip, but someone from a nearby chapter did once and came to talk about it to our chapter afterwards.

Ruth: I’ll actually be in Tanzania a week after the Rise trip this summer!


Kia: Many of your members participate in automatic recurring giving. Why is that? 

Debbie: The recurring giving has made our chapter more consistent, even when we weren’t meeting, like during COVID. We promoted it for a couple months and many have opted to do that.

Ruth: We modeled it first and talked about the benefits. It’s great because you don’t have to worry about it, you’re not voting on a specific project but supporting all the good work Rise is doing. We also tell people to donate online so we don’t have to deal with checks.

Debbie: I remember a member saying last week that she likes the fact that she is donating every month even if she can’t make all the meetings. She cares deeply about the mission and wants the money to go towards these causes.


Kia: What is one piece of advice you have for anyone starting a chapter?

Debbie: It goes back to being flexible. Invite people in, but without a commitment. Let them look around. The social aspect is also very important. The camaraderie, it has kept us together.

Ruth: Share what interests you about the mission, what tugs at your heart. We’ve had a lot of people move away, so recruitment is always a thing for us. Listen to your members and try to be flexible. Focus on the community. You also have to have fun doing it. We laugh, try to have a good time, even when the subjects are tough. But it’s always good coming together.


If you are interested in being featured on “A Rising Tide” or have a recommendation for a chapter or chapter leader who should be featured, please email Kia Hunter, our Volunteer Manager, at kia@togetherwomenrise.org.