Volunteer Leaders: Francie Hill Rathje


River Bluff Community Foundation Vice President

  • Hometown: Clinton, IA
  • Career: Retired nonprofit marketer
  • Board member since: 2012


Tell us about yourself!

As a fifth generation Clintonian, with family involvement in various churches and boards, I was raised to think of my community and giving back. Our blended family has five children, 15 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. I think my greatest joy is when a grandson sends me a text messages to say, “Grandma Fran, you would be happy that I took basketball gear to one of the schools in the south Valley (Albuquerque) last night with my team,” or a granddaughter sends me a picture of her and her husband, saying, ”We rang the bell for Rotary and it was really a good feeling.” (Her great great-great-grandfather was one of the founding Rotarians in Lyons, Iowa 150 years ago!) I feel great joy to see the next generations continuing the legacy of giving back to their community.


When and why did you start serving the Foundation board? 

I was raised being shown and knowing that it is important to give back to your community. My great-great-grandfather was one of the founders of Lyons, a community adjoining northern Clinton. His name and that of his son can be found as founders of many civic groups in Clinton. My grandfather, Frank O Kershner, MD, began a scholarship for nurses. Another family member was Jane Lamb, whose name was on the first nursing school and hospital in Clinton.  My parents, Frances and Bob Bickelhaupt, started an arboretum some fifty years ago on the grounds of their home. Recently this museum of trees, the Bickelhaupt Arboretum, was given to Clinton Community College.

I was invited to the board in 2012 by Carol Machael, one of the founders of River Bluff Community Foundation. I thought it was the perfect board position. Recently, my husband and I moved downriver from Clinton to Independent Living, which provides new friends, new adventures, and new education. The Foundation is one of two boards on which I hope to continue to serve.  


What inspires you to keep serving? 

With some fifty years in nonprofit marketing, I am constantly challenged to look for ways to encourage others to give back to their community. Several examples of inspiration come to mind: Once, a woman in northern New Mexico took off her wedding ring to put in the offering when I was soliciting help for a program to help transition young mothers into the work force. There was a famous author who wanted to discreetly welcome a political refugee at the airport and the next day, a generous check arrived. A bible school class had a competition to collect plastic bags to knit and crochet sleeping mats for the homeless. Each of these instances have inspired me to keep serving.

The diversity of the board and the diversity of grants requested amazes me. Recent applications had very specific requests, which provides a challenge as we seek to reward projects which are unique and can springboard into other projects.