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The kid valet had ushered Bill Gates into his car and was headed back to the stand when I just had to ask: Is the Richest Man in America a decent tipper?

“He gave him 10 grand!” another valet joked.

“Twenty,” the kid told me, with a wide grin and a story for life.

It was a nice capper to an evening centered on what Microsoft wealth can do, in big ways and small.

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And Jeff and Tricia Raikes are focused on the big.

At the opening of the sleek, new Lake Union headquarters of their Raikes Foundation the other night, Microsoft’s first office romance (“There have been others who have followed,” Jeff Raikes cracked) welcomed friends, colleagues and partners, and spoke of their plans for the city, state and the country.

Everyone received a name tag, but of course most didn’t need one.

The towering William H. Gates Sr.
came in with his wife, Mimi, to take a look around, and there was something symbolic in that; the father of the man whose work and wealth have created an enduring and worldwide ripple effect.

“It’s kind of a simple thing,” the elder Gates said when I asked him to ponder. “It’s a neat place for a city to be.”

His wife tried to get more out of him: “But what role did Microsoft play?”

“It brought a hell of a lot of money here!” Gates said, smiling at the absurdity of having to say it out loud. Then he paused. “My son is a hell of a lot smarter than I am.”

Not long after, that son arrived with his wife, Melinda French Gates, he in a zip-front pullover and casual pants, and she in a designer dress and boots. They toured the place, Melinda ducking into offices and getting on her tiptoes to peer over partitions while Bill waited, glass of white wine in hand.

There was Steve Daschle of Southwest Youth and Family Services; James Catalano from the University of Washington; the writer James Fallows, who in 2000 was embedded with Raikes’ team at Microsoft for a piece he wrote for The Atlantic.

(“He wanted to understand the business, and they made a nice connection,” Tricia Raikes told me.)

There was Seattle City Council President Sally Clark, former first lady of Washington Mona Locke and Deborah Jensen of the Woodland Park Zoo.

Killian Noe, of the Recovery Cafe, gave Tricia Raikes one of her signature hugs before the couple miked up and stood on a landing between two floors to address the crowd, which included folks from Microsoft and representatives from nonprofits and institutions around the city

The Raikes Foundation, which has the goal of ending local homelessness by 2020, has already given out $43 million since 2002 — $22 million of that in the state of Washington.

The new digs are 22 minutes by bicycle from the Raikes’ house in Laurelhurst, “but a little too long for me in a kayak,” Jeff Raikes said.

The idea was to explain where they came from. Both grew up in families “that value public service,” Tricia Raikes said, and, after meeting at Microsoft, they built a family and a home here.

Then they won what Jeff Raikes called “the Microsoft lottery.”

“When you get that kind of benefit,” he asked, “what are you going to do with it? Philanthropy is a journey. You follow your head, but you follow your heart, as well.”

That may have been the best tip of the night.

The college try

One by one, the kids on the stage stated a dream: Cartoonist. Engineer. Architect. Game designer.

Bob Craves watched from the table at the front of the room the other day at the College Success Foundation (CSF)’s annual luncheon and beamed, knowing he had spent the past 13 years working to make that happen.

His nonprofit offers support and scholarships to low-income kids, helping them overcome tough odds and get a college education. So far, 3,000 kids have gotten bachelor degrees with CSF’s help, and 6,000 more in Washington state and Washington, D.C., are being ushered along.

Craves and his CSF co-founder, Ann Ramsay-Jenkins, both retired earlier this year, and the other day they were feted by 1,000 people, including Bill Weyerhaeuser, state House Speaker Frank Chopp, Congresswoman
Suzan DelBene, state schools Superintendent
Randy Dorn
and 12 — count ’em! — college presidents.

“If I knew this many people would turn out to see me leave, I’d have done it sooner,” Craves cracked.

(Jean Enersen, just back to KING 5 after hip surgery, served as emcee.)

“This work has been completely rewarding,” Craves told me after. “The good thing about it is you know what the end result is. Every kid who graduates is one.”

It’s a nice legacy. But being one of the first seven people to start Costco wasn’t so bad, either.

“That was fun, too!” Craves said. “You know, we do have a few million members.”

Nicole Brodeur’s column appears Tuesday and Sunday. Reach her at 206-464-2334 or

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