A look at La Jolla’s Fire Station 13, circa 2006, would not necessarily be a pleasant sight. Male and female sleeping quarters contained uncomfortable beds and were separated only by a curtain, there were out-of-date television sets, and the building itself was in need of repairs. Enter the La Jolla Sunrise Rotary Club, whose members stepped up and began fundraising for a major renovation.
Completed in 2007, the Sunrise Rotary Club celebrated its achievement on April 23 with the dedication of an on-site donor wall. Bird Rock mural artist Jane Wheeler designed the wall with handmade tiles naming the benefactors. The mosaic wall faces the adjacent Fay Avenue Bike Path on the east side of the building.
Strategically placed near the center of the wall is the tile recognizing donors Lynn Gorguze and her husband Congress member Scott Peters, both of whom were in attendance at the wall dedication.
“These firefighters, who take such good care of us and put their lives on the line for us, have to live here, basically,” Peters said. “(When this project was being discussed) I came down to look at the station and saw it was kind of a miserable situation. So this has been great for the department. Thank you to the community for your generosity … if we had the federal government functioning at 100 percent — we are slightly short of that — we still could not replace the community leadership that happens in places like this.”
San Diego Fire Chief Colin Stowell added his first-hand impressions of the renovation: “It was pretty bad here, and I worked many shifts before the remodel was done. It has made a huge difference! I just cannot believe the changes and the new environment. When these folks live here 24 hours a day, to be able to offer them such conveniences and a nice place to work, is tremendous. We truly appreciate the La Jolla Sunrise Rotary for their significant contributions to Fire Station 13.”
Stowell added that when the project started, “money was not easy to come by” in the City budget. “We were going through tough times in the fire department. Remodels, frankly, were not high on the priority list. We were looking at closing down fire houses at that time. We would not be able to complete projects like this without private groups like La Jolla Sunrise Rotary.”
Brendan Ruff was president of La Jolla Sunrise Rotary when the project began (and former publisher of La Jolla Light). He provided the historical perspective. He told those gathered that in March 2006, the Club did its first outreach to the community, announcing the goal was $80,000 to renovate the dorms into three separate bedrooms.
“In April that year, we received our first donations, including $50,000 from Paula and Oliver Jones, and a $100,000 matching grant from an anonymous donor who still wishes to remain anonymous,” Ruff said. The Anonymous and Jones Family tiles are in the center of the donor wall, under a glistening golden fire helmet mosaic.
In June 2006, the Club and Fire Station hosted a community open house so people could see the needs. By July, with excess funds in hand, the goal was increased to $450,000 to include new bathrooms, kitchens and added space for an office.
By November, the club had raised $250,000 in cash and $100,000 worth of goods and services, including: a large screen TV for the lounge; new beds; wardrobe cabinets; new TVs; heating, ventilation, air-conditioning; electrical wiring; a concrete foundation and framing; new doors and windows; painting interior and exterior; dry-walling and counter-top installation. Some contractors provided services below cost.
In July 2007, the “new” Fire Station 13 was dedicated.
“In the end, $309,417 cash was raised and estimated $400,000 in goods and services donated,” Ruff said. “Of all the donations, my favorite came from Luke Furtek, who, in lieu of gifts for his fifth birthday, asked for donations to Fire Station 13 and raised several hundred dollars.”
With the project complete, Wheeler was tasked with making the tiles for the donor wall to honor major contributors. At the celebratory unveiling, Rotarian Trip Bennett, whom many credited with shepherding the project, made this toast: “To the firefighters; you all are heroes 365 days a year, but today, these are your heroes, and we toast them. Thank you all for what you did.”
Fire Station 13 is located at 809 Nautilus St. To learn more about the La Jolla Sunrise Rotary Club, visit rotary5340.org/clubinfo/la-jolla-sunrise