After 40 Years Serving the Senior Citizens of Clairemont: LiveWell San Diego Closes its Doors
I have had the pleasure of serving as Executive Director and Board Vice President of LiveWell San Diego for the past 7 years. Prior to my tenure Cathy Hopper held the reins, literally from the ground up. Not only did she have a vision for the seniors of Clairemont Mesa, she took action and made things happen. Working with San Diego City Council, the Mayor and state representatives the center, we all know as LiveWell San Diego after nearly 40 years has closed its doors. The early days saw packed lunch rooms, fitness classes and lobbies full of card and Bridge players. A thriving Adult Day Care Program for those seniors and families struggling with the beginning stages of Alzheimer’s continued until its closing. True to its nonprofit status all programs were based on the family’s ability to pay the already modest fees.
Without city or federal funding LiveWell San Diego had been renting hall space and office space to church groups and the general community for private parties allowing the center to stay open. Granted, it was and it is with every small nonprofit, a financial struggle but every dollar helped. A handful of donors from the community, corporate donors and the support of organizations like Shoreline Realty Group, Bay Mesa Real Estate Association as well as TARGET on Balboa Ave here in Clairemont contributed over the years. We were always appreciative of their financial support without it; the center would have closed long ago.
As much as we relied on monetary donations, we could never have done any of this without our loving volunteers. Some that had been saving the agency countless dollars over these many years by answering phones, calling homebound seniors (thanks Mille, Nergish, Hildie) and helping to prepare lunches. Often making something from nothing! (Thanks Dottie)
Sadly, and much to our surprise everything changed a few months ago when the city came in and informed us that we were in violation of our lease by renting out any space. In the same conversation we were told we would now be charged rent from the city. I responded by stating the simple fact, “You the City, are taking $17,000 from our already tight budget and expect us to somehow come up with rent for the same building we maintain through generous donors?”
I honestly don’t see how this is going to end well for the center or the seniors who utilize this building. The programs we offered for free support groups, the watercolor classes, the Feeling Fit class and for those that attended our Adult Day Care Program are now in jeopardy. The transition of abruptly ending these programs and routines for many seniors to now all up in the air is really the tragedy of it all.
From the City we received apologies and accolades, but no resolution in resolving the lease, so we have been forced to make the painful decision to close due to the above financial reasons.
It is noteworthy to mention the office of our San Diego City Councilmember Chris Cate and the Clairemont Lutheran Church located on Clairemont Mesa Blvd offered their voice and support, unfortunately it just was not enough. Five months of lost revenues makes it awfully hard to pay for utilities and the basic needs of day to day operations. I am told the Park and Rec Center will now run these programs and we wish them well in their new programming venture. They do a great job with Clairemont youth, so I am confident they will come in with a bigger budget and improve the center.
I thank Cathy Hopper and her husband John, for their years of dedication to the community and seniors she so proudly served. Cathy will never know her center has come to a close as she herself is now in the final stage of Alzheimer’s. Perhaps I’m a bit attached to both, but it just seems oddly appropriate, they should both exit at the same time. Both touching more lives than we can count.