Manship Media executive Ralph Bender, who has dedicated decades of his life to offering financial advice to local nonprofits and volunteering, is the 2022 recipient of the Golden Deeds Award.
“I have had the pleasure of volunteering alongside Ralph for several nonprofits and can attest that his sole motivation is to ‘give back’ and leave our community and the world better than he found it,” colleague Marvin Borgmeyer wrote in a letter nominating Bender for the award, which Borgmeyer won in 2016. “In other words, he volunteers for all the right reasons — with a heart of gold.”
With a background in accounting, Bender has shared his expertise in finance with many of the organizations he worked with through roles as chairman, treasurer and board member.
Borgmeyer said Bender has been involved with three dozen nonprofit organizations over the past few decades, with his work ranging from leading to fundraising to volunteering on the ground.
For Bender, though, there’s always more work to be done.
“We need volunteers to bring hope back into the community so that people believe they have the chance to grow, to achieve,” Bender said. “We were taught about the American dream — that we could grow up to become anything if we worked hard enough. We need to find a way to bring the American dream back to the kids and families who have lost it.”
The Golden Deeds Award has been selected by the Inter-Civic Council of Greater Baton Rouge, an organization of 28 local nonprofits and civic organizations, each year since 1942. An awards dinner will be held Nov. 8.
Bender’s interest in volunteering began as a child, when his parents instilled in him the Jewish values of working to make the world a better place. As an adult, his first role in nonprofit work was on the Board of the Jewish Federation of Greater Baton Rouge — from there, his interest in helping nonprofits blossomed.
“I’ve loved the moments that make you laugh,” Bender said. “I’ve loved the poignant moments that make you cry, that make you realize how doggone lucky you are.”
Among his roles include his work as chair of the Arts Council of Greater Baton Rouge, where he assisted in a $3.5 million capital campaign that allowed for the revitalization of the former district attorney’s office on St. Ferdinand Street to house the Baton Rouge Symphony Orchestra and other local artists.
Borgmeyer, who is retired from ExxonMobil, also highlighted Bender’s former chairmanship of the Baton Rouge Area Chamber, during which he helped create two new economic development districts for Plank Road and Florida Boulevard and launched Handshake, an online service to recruit students to jobs at local businesses.
BRAC also developed a $2 million loan fund and an additional $300 million for annual transportation funding as part of its minority business development efforts.
“Ralph has worked in the trenches, tirelessly doing the ‘difficult’ work of being an exceptional fundraiser for many entities, among his list of volunteer efforts,” Borgmeyer wrote.
Bender has served 36 nonprofit and charity organizations for local youth, the arts, economic development and more, according to Borgmeyer.
Bender has also won 12 awards prior to the Golden Deeds Award, including the Boy Scout Silver Beaver Award, the Junior Achievement Bronze Leadership Award and the 2005 American Institute of Public Accountants’ National Public Service Award.
“At the end of the day, it (the Golden Deeds Award) may be the greatest honor ever bestowed on me,” Bender said. “But it’s also a reminder that while there are times I’d like to say I’m going to tone it down real quick and do a little bit less, our community needs a whole lot of people to do a lot more.”
He thanked his wife, Edie Bender; his parents; the Manship family; and colleague Barry Blumberg, along with nominator Borgmeyer, for their assistance in his nonprofit involvement.