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Eva and George Raftelis

Difference Makers

George and Eva Raftelis

Arts Advocates Passionate About Helping Communities

by Liz Rothaus Bertrand
Conversation flows easily with George and Eva Raftelis. Friendly and enthusiastic, they are also grateful: for family; for the business George built from the ground up; for opportunities they have had to travel and meet people from around the world; and the chance to learn from every new experience. They are also deeply committed to supporting the community, in Charlotte and beyond.
Take, for instance, one of their passion projects, helping a church and school near Nairobi, Kenya, where the well went dry about six years ago.
In order to have clean drinking water, members of the community had been hauling water from a great distance. Through Davidson College Presbyterian Church, where the Raftelises are longtime members, they became personally involved in providing funds as well as expertise.
Eva and George Raftelis
Eva and George Raftelis stop for a photo while cycling in the Algau region in Southern Germany.
George Raftelis, founder and chair emeritus of Raftelis, a leading provider of consulting services to the utility industry and public sector, has spent his career advising municipalities and states across the U.S. on how to best finance and manage water and wastewater projects. He put those skills to work in Africa too, helping this impoverished community determine the best way – with the limited technology available – to dig a well, lay plumbing and select contractors to complete the work.
“I’m very proud to say that as of about three months ago, water is flowing freely there,” George Raftelis said last year. “... We believe water is a right that everyone is entitled to.”
“We just hope (the endowment) will continue to grow and benefit the community.”
George Raftelis
Arts Advocate | Blumenthal Supporter
That image of a well flowing to benefit everyone in the community serves as an apt metaphor for the important philanthropic work the Raftelises are doing closer to home, including at Blumenthal Performing Arts, where they have just established a new endowment to expand arts opportunities to those who would not otherwise be able to afford them. From show tickets to arts education, the endowment will help students and others have access to the arts.
“We just hope it will continue to grow and benefit the community,” said George Raftelis, who recently finished a six-year term serving as a Blumenthal trustee.
The Raftelises have their photo taken during Blumenthal Performing Arts 25th Anniversary "Big Dreams" celebration with Leslie Odom Jr.
The Raftelises support many other organizations, too. “The foundation that we set up that feeds these endowments really focuses on four areas,” he said. These include:
  1. Educational institutions (like George’s alma maters, Eckerd College and Duke University, and their grandchildren’s school, Charlotte Lab School).
  2. Organizations that support disadvantaged groups (such as Davidson Housing Coalition and E2D, a nonprofit that aims to eliminate the digital divide by providing refurbished computers to needy students).
  3. Religious organizations.
  4. Community arts organizations (In addition to Blumenthal, they support groups like Davidson Community Players and WDAV, the local classical music station.)

Why The Arts?

Since moving to Charlotte 45 years ago, the Raftelises have become progressively more involved in the arts. “When we (relocated to) Charlotte, we started going to various shows at Blumenthal … and we really connected with that. We enjoyed the shows. This was decades ago,” said George Raftelis.
Soon they became subscribers and eventually joined the Producer’s Circle, Blumenthal’s membership program for the organization’s most generous donors. While supporting Blumenthal’s key outreach programs like Arts For All, they started meeting others with a passion for the arts and enjoying new experiences tied to performances here and elsewhere.
Among them has been the exciting opportunity to meet performers at opening night festivities.
“I love those cast parties,” said Eva Raftelis. “All of them are different. We (have gone) to a few of them here and there. It's so interesting to see the performers and see the ‘real them,’ not the ‘stage them.’”
The Raftelises have their photo taken in front of Roslyn Chapel outside of Edinburgh during a trip where they met up with Blumenthal President Tom Gabbard and his wife, Vickie, along with other Blumenthal staff.
Over the years, their adventures with Team Blumenthal have also included traveling with small groups led by Blumenthal’s CEO Tom Gabbard and his wife, Vickie, to other places offering unique performing arts experiences, such as the Spoleto Festival USA in Charleston and the massive Edinburgh Fringe Festival, the world’s largest arts festival in Scotland. It was in Scotland that they had the chance to see an early version of the current hit show, SIX.
The Raftelises have also enjoyed guided trips to New York where they’ve previewed phenomenal new shows before they arrived in Charlotte. “We got to go behind the scenes there and meet some of the producers,” said George Raftelis. “Our performing arts IQ went up a lot.”
Eva and George Raftelis on the island of Corsica.


This has been new territory for both of the Raftelises, who had little exposure to the performing arts as children. George, growing up in a small South Carolina town, spent more time exploring nature and building erector sets than practicing his clarinet, which he studied briefly in middle school. Meanwhile Eva, who spent her childhood on the other side of the world, in Augsburg, Germany, had an early passion for languages (in addition to German and English, she speaks French and Italian) but virtually no contact with the arts.
“In our adult age, we found out that exposure to the arts changes your mind or your opinion or your view of the world,” said Eva Raftelis.
That’s similar to how she views travel, recalling Mark Twain’s famous observation that “travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.” In fact, to George, the arts are a type of voyage. He describes them as “a journey to other intellectual places.” An artist’s creation – whether it’s a painting, a musical composition, a dance or some other expression – is a tangible reflection of another person’s ideas, a place we would normally not be able to access.
“Art is a universal experience.”
Eva Raftelis
Arts Advocate | Blumenthal Supporter
“It’s astounding to me that the human mind can create this art,” said George Raftelis.
But while the arts demonstrate the unique talents or individuals, they also speak to us across cultures.
“Art is a universal experience,” said Eva Raftelis.
Like travel, the arts expand our understanding of humanity. Whether we watch stories unfold on stage or visit new places, we develop an understanding that deep down, we are all the same. People may dress differently, practice different faiths, eat different foods but they all want what’s best for their children and are eager to learn, explained Eva Raftelis.
This act of discovery through the arts is something the Raftelises want to make sure more people have the opportunity to experience.
“I think Blumenthal, and Gabbard in particular, they’ve done an incredible job of expanding the performing arts IQ of the community,” said George Raftelis, noting the top quality shows they bring to Charlotte, and educational programs like The Blumey Awards, which have helped launch the careers of numerous young people in the arts.
Thanks to the generosity of the Raftelises, their new endowment will act as a continuous source, ensuring that even more arts experiences flow and reach the neediest in our community for years to come. ◼