WATERLOO — When it comes to community service, some high school students do the bare minimum to graduate, or pad their résumés solely for college admissions officers.
That is simply not the case for Waterloo High School senior Doug Bates, for whom helping others just seems to be part of his DNA.
Four years ago, Bates was featured in a Finger Lakes Times article. The subject: the gargantuan, multi-day yard sale he and his family organized to raise funds for Compassion International’s program to supply water filtration kits to overseas communities. Doug, with the support of his parents, held his first fund-raising yard sale in 2010. They have continued to this day and enabled the purchase of hundreds of filtration kits. Last year alone they raised over $3,000 and bought 38 kits.
“We’re probably going to have three of them this year,” Bates said of the yard sale. “It’s so much stuff; it’s just been growing.”
In that 2014 story, Bates dreamed of working in a non-profit or starting his own to help others.
That dream is taking its first steps to becoming a reality. After graduation, Bates plans to buy a food truck — which he will name “Beyond the Plate” — and hopes to donate some of his proceeds to non-profits.
“I used to be a science nerd but I have developed into an entrepreneur who wants to help his community,” Bates said.
Bates, the son of Kim and Doug Bates Sr., has been in the culinary program at BOCES for the past two years and is earning a special certification in food safety with an eye on his future. He is currently interning at Cafe XIX in Seneca Falls and has been working on a business plan. He also recently attended the Panther Pitch event in Geneva, where he was particularly excited to meet the owners of the newly opened Geneva coffee shop, Monaco’s.
“That was amazing; I learned a lot,” he said.
Currently, Bates is purchasing some equipment and is on the lookout for a truck to convert. The Seneca Boulevard property that his family owns (and where the annual yard sale is held) is where he will prepare the food.
“That’s my graduation gift,” he said.
Bates envisions serving “culturally infused” food — for example not just a simple burger, but one topped with tomatillo salsa and avocado — and offering special items based on the event he’s attending (i.e. grape-themed dishes at the Naples Grape Festival).
If things go well and he can afford to, Bates hopes to donate some of his proceeds to area non-profits. And he simply doesn’t want to cut the check.
“I want to be part of the community service,” he said, like buying and then delivering dog food to a shelter. He’d also like to offer internship opportunities to young adults in need.
“Knowing that I help somebody and somebody is better than they were before, it’s a natural thing for me,” he said. “I don’t know; it’s one of those gift things I guess.”
The annual yard sales are just one of Bates’ many community service projects. He is the coordinator at his school for the Seneca County Community Christmas project, volunteers at Wellspring food pantry in Clifton Springs, is a member of Rotary’s youth Interact club, helps coach his brother’s lacrosse team and plans to help out at the May 18 Special Olympics in Bloomfield (tired yet?).
He spoke at a recent Seneca County forum on mental health and attended a youth leadership conference at State University College at Geneseo. Bates also launched a school group called Purpose, which meets once or twice a month to discuss possible changes in the school and greater community. He also collects gifts for Operation Christmas Child through Samaritan’s Purse.
“I’ve been doing that since I was little,” Bates said. “My mom and I are in charge of that now. My mom and I — we’re a team with all of this stuff. Then we tell my dad what to do.”
Bates also singled out his grandmother, Barbara Elwell, who helps watch his three younger brothers so he and his mom can do things like shop at the Kmart closeout sale, where they were able to purchase items at 80 percent off for Operation Christmas Child.
His mother, Kim, said her eldest son has always been kindhearted and a hard worker. As a 4-year-old — when helping friends move — he was just like one of the adults schlepping boxes, she recalled.
Kim Bates said she and her husband are not materialistic people and have always tried to teach their children the value of helping others. But it’s clear Doug is taking it to a different level. In addition to his community service work, he works part time at Tops grocery store and insists that some of his pay go toward household expenses, his mother said. He also takes his three young brothers under his wing.
“It’s always kind of been there,” Kim Bates said of her son’s selfless and generous nature. “I think it’s something that God planted in him and he’s just growing.”
That nature is not going unnoticed.
Bates was recently honored with a certificate from the Princeton Club of Rochester; he was a finalist for the Princeton Prize in Race Relations and spoke about his community service efforts last month at Allendale-Columbia School in Rochester.
“In terms of positive leadership and initiative in service to others, Doug seems to be an accomplished multi-tasker,” the certificate reads. “This Waterloo High School senior is part of myriad community and global projects aimed at bettering the lives of people at home and around the world.”
Bates’ pastor, Dale Andrews of the Geneva Assembly of God, wrote that Bates is not only well mannered, but puts the needs of others before his own.
“Doug cares deeply for the less fortunate and works hard to make the lives of others better,” he said.
Terri Bavis, Waterloo school superintendent, has gotten to know Bates over the past two years since he’s a member of the Superintendent’s Student Advisory Council, which meets monthly. Bavis called him a “dear, sweet, genuine kid” who works hard and is a friend to everybody.
Bavis said the Princeton recognition was just “perfect.”
“He has such a strong belief personally about what’s right and how people want to be treated,” she said. “It doesn’t surprise me.”