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Volunteers have more fun

Just ask Riderwood’s Bette Martin

Created date

July 31st, 2017
Bette Martin, who worked for 33 years as a professor and administrator at Gallaudet University, was recently elected to Riderwood’s Resident Advisory Council.

Bette Martin, who worked for 33 years as a professor and administrator at Gallaudet University, was recently elected to Riderwood’s Resident Advisory Council.

Earlier this year, Riderwood’s Resident Advisory Council (RAC), an influential committee that serves as a liaison between residents and management, elected community member Bette Martin. Bette had already been active on the community’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee and decided that running for RAC would be a good next step. 

“I was looking around, and I thought there were areas where I might be able to help residents have an even better voice with the administration,” Bette says. 

Bette was asked to serve as RAC’s communication and IT officer. She primarily ensures that community members know RAC’s goals. To that end, she films a five-minute spot on Riderwood’s in-house TV station after each meeting to communicate updates to her neighbors. She also posts RAC meeting minutes and other information on the community’s online portal. 

From career to community service

The nature of Bette’s work allows her to draw on her communications experience from her career. She worked for 33 years at Gallaudet University, a liberal arts college for deaf students. She was a literature professor and later held administrative roles, including special assistant to the president of the university.  

“I used to do similar things professionally, but it’s more fun to do when it’s a volunteer thing,” Bette says of her work for RAC. 

Bette and her husband Gene moved to Riderwood from Washington, D.C., almost four years ago. Bette says she was interested in moving to Riderwood because she didn’t want to have to worry about climbing stairs after knee and back surgeries. 

Gene, however, wasn’t totally sold on the idea—until he actually visited Riderwood and toured one of the extra-large combo-style apartment homes that are created by combining two smaller units. 

“Gene hadn’t seen it and was happy in our large house,” Bette recalls. “Then he saw a combo apartment. His eyes lit up and he said, ‘We could do that.’ We moved within a couple of months.”

‘My kind of spot’

As compared to other local retirement communities, Bette says she thought Riderwood was “elegant and pretty.” Even more important, she immediately noticed the diverse population with people of many different ethnicities and walks of life.

“Riderwood just looked like my kind of spot—it’s diverse, and there is something for everybody,” Bette says. “It’s so interesting—this place is [filled] with accomplished, intelligent people.”

With the Diversity and Inclusion Committee, Bette has helped to organize a series of programs called “Breaking Barriers,” which have explored important topics like race, women’s equality, and people with disabilities. 

Another program focused on African-American filmmaker Oscar Micheaux, and the group also put on a mini film festival, which included a documentary about former President Barack Obama’s childhood in Hawaii. 

“For some of the programs, we almost fill the Encore Theater, so that’s about 250 people,” Bette says. “We’ve done some very cool stuff, and we have more cool stuff coming up.”

Bette is also a member of a book club at Riderwood and gets together with neighbors to play Upwords, similar to a 3D version of Scrabble. 

Since moving to Riderwood, Bette, who has never belonged to any religious organization, has become a Unitarian. She also gets together every month with a group of neighbors who practice Secular Humanistic Judaism. 

“For me, Riderwood has been really great,” she says.