Content as she could be, 7-month-old Ellie flashed a wide, toothless grin as she sat on Ann Parker Gottwald’s lap and watched her two cousins — Gottwald’s grandsons Parker, 18 months, and Dewey, 3 — tussle nearby over the ownership of a toy truck carrying a load of small wooden blocks.
At home with her family, Gottwald, known to friends and family as AP, is in her element, but you’ll have to catch her when you can — she doesn’t sit still for long. There are too many causes to support, too many families in need, too many children who, unlike her grandchildren, are not so fortunate and therefore desperately need the help of capable, caring adults who can make things happen on their behalf.
The Richmond Christmas Mother Fund is one more tool within her holiday goodwill arsenal to do just that.
Gottwald is the 2017 Richmond Christmas Mother, leading the annual fundraiser for gifts, food and services to those in need throughout the Richmond region this holiday season. The Christmas Mother Fund is sponsored by the Richmond Times-Dispatch, which absorbs all administrative costs. It dates to the 1930s and is a product of two former holiday programs, The Times-Dispatch’s Good Fellow Club and the Richmond News Leader’s Empty Stocking Fund.
As Christmas Mother, Gottwald will make numerous public appearances around town, including at The Jefferson Hotel’s annual tree-lighting ceremony at 5 p.m. Monday, Nov. 27. She’ll ride down Broad Street during the Dominion Energy Christmas Parade at 10 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 2, and you’ll also find her at the Valentine during Court End Christmas at 1:30 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 10.
The largest beneficiary within the Christmas Mother Fund is the Salvation Army Central Virginia, which receives a $150,000 grant to support its Christmas Distribution Center. Additionally, the fund awards $75,000 to $100,000 to other holiday assistance programs, including other regional Christmas Mother programs, thanks to a partnership with The Community Foundation, which aggregates grant requests. Awards depend on the donations each year from Richmond Christmas Mother supporters, mostly Times-Dispatch readers.
Born and raised in Richmond, Gottwald is the youngest of six children. She attended St. Catherine’s School and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
She married her high school sweetheart, Thomas E. “Teddy” Gottwald, who is chairman, president and CEO of NewMarket Corp., in 1984. Together, they raised five boys as they moved around the country, including to St. Louis twice, plus a short stint in Boston before finally settling in Richmond. The couple also own and operate The Georges, an 18-room boutique inn in Lexington.
“I always wanted a lot of children, since I came from a large family,” she said recently, and described her childhood self as a “tomboy” who often followed around her older brothers. Having five boys of her own, “it was just kind of rough and tumble,” Gottwald said about their childhood. “We put them on teams together — it was busy, but it was really fun.”
“I think I’m just a boy mom,” she said, but adding quickly with a grin, “I love having Ellie now, though.”
Gottwald has been a presence in local fundraising efforts for years, though her sense of giving developed long ago with her parents, Haywood B. and Frances Hyman.
She said her mother was an annual giver to St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital, often with $10 or $15 donations, but more than money, she gave her time and effort. Gottwald remembers that her mother would cook and deliver meals for those in need. A local fundraiser for St. Jude’s, it turns out, would be AP and Teddy’s first introduction to local giving.
“They were both generous people who instilled (in their children) a lot of giving and love and smiles,” Gottwald said about her parents. “They both grew up in the Great Depression and taught us values (and) it’s a pleasure to try to continue to do what they taught us.”
Gottwald’s efforts are spread around the area — she has served on the boards for St. Christopher’s School, the Sacred Heart Center, MCV/VCU Foundation, Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden and the St. Mary’s Foundation, as well as the Children’s Hospital Junior Board, the Massey Cancer Center Advisory Board and the Virginia Treatment Center for Children’s Healthy Minds Cabinet.
Most recently, she has been involved with Mission Gait, a Richmond-based nonprofit devoted to furthering education and research on complex gait disabilities.
Giving runs in the family, too, as she’s the daughter-in-law of Nancy Gottwald, the 2007 Richmond Christmas Mother.
“I’ve always loved trying to do things for others,” said Gottwald, citing a story from a few years ago, when she and her husband and youngest son delivered gifts on Christmas morning to children in local hospitals. “I’m happier doing things for other people.”