By Dan Montgomery


The winner of the Virginia Network of Private Providers’ 2019 Leadership Award is … LFSVA head Ray Ratke.

The award was presented last week at VNPP’s annual conference in Richmond. Ratke has been chief executive officer of Lutheran Family Services of Virginia since 2017.Ray accepting his award

The award cited his “…dedication, vision and tireless advocacy on behalf of private providers of services to individuals with intellectual disabilities and mental illness in the Commonwealth of Virginia.”

In presenting the award, VNPP Executive Director Jennifer Fidura recalled a conversation about how changing bureaucratic roles were endangering a particular service for schoolchildren.

“Ray said, ‘Stop. It’s not about us. It’s about the children,’ ” Fidura told the conference attendees. “And that is all you need to know.”

Another presenter, Jennifer Faison, executive director of the Virginia Association of Community Services Boards, said, “Part of what makes Ray such a good leader is the fact that he is a good person.”

Ray accepting his award“I am kind of speechless,” Ratke said in accepting the award. “All I want to say is: We’re really lucky. With all the frustration and disappointments of trying to do this work, we still get to go home at the end of the day and feel we’re doing the work of making a difference in people’s lives.

“And that’s a gift.”

Later, Ratke had more thoughts on the VNPP honor.

“I am so honored to receive this leadership award from my peers, especially so as it was first established as a tribute to my long-time mentor, colleague and friend, Jennifer Fidura,” he said. “This was also incredibly special to me as I was nominated by the management team of Lutheran Family Services of Virginia. Many thanks to all of you who were responsible for that — you are the best. As I said at the VNPP conference, I am so lucky and humbled to have had the opportunity to spend my career in the pursuit of a better life for others. I am also so grateful to work for an organization that exists simply to make our world, and our communities more loving.”

Ratke was not the only LFSVA representative to be honored at the conference: Lynchburg Day Support Manager Christopher Viar was recognized as a VNPP Emerging Leader.