BEVERLY — Ralph Bates doesn’t live in Beverly and had never heard of River House.
But when his stockbroker read a story about the homeless shelter’s financial troubles, Bates decided to do what he’s been doing often over the last few years — take out his pen and write a big, fat check.
“I’m a bachelor, no kids, I’m 81,” he said. “I figure I can’t take it with me, so I might as well be good to a lot of people.”
The Manchester-by-the-Sea resident has donated $100,000 to River House, which is scheduled to reopen today after closing temporarily on April 30 due to money problems.
The contribution stunned and delighted River House officials, who have been trying for years to keep the shelter up and running.
“It was astounding,” said Kate Benashski, executive director of River House. “The generosity is unbelievable. Single, homeless men often don’t get a lot of attention in a positive way. For him to think about them and make a donation is just a remarkable gesture.”
Bates downplays how he accumulated his wealth, saying he was in the right place at the right time. He owned the Greater Boston House Buyers Guide for 23 years and a large apartment building in Arlington that he recently sold after 45 years.
“I was lucky,” he said. “It wasn’t my brain, I know that.”
Bates donated $1 million to The Jimmy Fund in 2006, $300,000 to the ALS Association in 2010, and $100,000 to the Pine Street Inn in Boston this year. He has also given $1 million to a community center in New Brunswick, Canada, where his family is from, as well as donations to several other local charities and organizations.
He has also agreed to match new donations to River House up to $25,000.
“It’s a great feeling to be able to do that, to have people you don’t even know come up and tap you on the shoulder,” he said. “I’ve done quite a bit and I’m going to do quite a bit more.”