RSF couple gives $3M to downtown senior center

Rancho Santa Fe residents Gary and Mary West made a $3 million contribution last week to Senior Community Centers. Their generous donation will go toward opening the Gary and Mary West Senior Wellness Center in downtown San Diego.

Their gift is the largest in the 38-year history of the Senior Community Centers. The organization provides services for low income and at-risk seniors such as housing, health care and activities.

"We were absolutely elated," said Paul Downey, president and CEO of Senior Community Centers. "Their gift is transformational for Senior Community Centers."

The gift from the Wests is not just a handout, it comes with a challenge, Downey said. It is the Wests' and Senior Centers' goal to create a center that will be a model for like facilities across the country. The Wests' vision includes integration of technology and innovative systems and programs.

"It's wonderful to have people that are really partners rather than just investors," Downey said.

The Wests established the Gary and Mary West Foundation in 2007. After learning that only a small percentage of philanthropic dollars throughout the country are allocated to seniors, they made helping seniors one of their foundation's focus areas.

Their foundation also supports career preparation for at-risk youth, animal welfare with a focus on companion dogs and police canine units.

The new wellness center will be located in downtown San Diego, on 4th Avenue and Beech Street.

Senior Centers is currently in the process of obtaining a conditional use permit from the city and are anticipating starting work on the facility in May. Downey said the center could open by Thanksgiving of 2009.

The center is envisioned to be a "one-stop shop" for seniors with nutritious meals, wellness check-ups, educational opportunities, job training and access to computers.

While the donation was a big boost, contributions are still needed at the Senior Community Centers. To learn more, visit

servingseniors.org

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