La Jolla’s Florence Riford Adult Center is opening its doors to the public in the hopes that it won’t soon have to close its doors for good.
The nonprofit organization that has administered the center for the past six years has informed the city that it will sever its relationship as lessee of the building effective June 30. The decision by LiveWell San Diego was driven by the reality that the endowment created by Florence Riford more than 25 years ago that provided most of the center’s $120,000 operating budget is about to run dry.
“Once that fund is depleted, there’s no way as a nonprofit that LiveWell can underwrite the center’s operation,” Riford Adult Center director Lynda Hunt said.
Now a group of La Jollans led by the La Jolla Rotary and Kiwanis clubs have started a campaign to create a new endowment for the Riford Center that will allow it to remain open indefinitely. They will kick off the effort with an open house on Sunday, May 6, called “Rockin’ the Riford.”
The event is open to the public from noon to 4 p.m. at the Riford Center at 6811 La Jolla Blvd. It will feature live music by the Tony McCashen Band, a raffle, silent auction, a strolling musician, palm reader and other fun activities.
“It’s going to be a party for all ages,” said Sherry Ahern, a member of the newly-formed nonprofit corporation Friends of the Riford Center.
Friends of the Riford Center hopes to kick off their fundraising by inviting the public into the center to show the significant void that would be left behind if the center were to close. It is the only senior center serving La Jolla and Pacific Beach, and offers its members a myriad of services. Members can catch rides from a car service hired by the center that loops through La Jolla and Pacific Beach four days per week and purchase home-delivered meals at half price.
The center hosts yoga classes three times per week and Thai Chi classes once every week. Aerobics classes are held every morning. The duplicate bridge games held every Tuesday regularly draw around 75 people, Hunt said. The center hosts safe driving classes, drawing classes and arts lectures sponsored by the Athenaeum Music and Arts Library.
The center provides members with free legal advice and there is a tax preparer working on-site every year at tax time.
Members can check out video tapes and DVDs for free, and the center has a room full of books, both in large print and regular, that members can take at any time. There’s a White Elephant Sale room where members donate items for others to buy.
The center recently had to cut back to four days of operation per week because of budget constraints.
“I’d like to see it open seven days per week,” Ahern said. “When the center closes on Thursday, it’s like, ‘Okay, go home and be lonely for the weekend.’ ”
Friends of the Riford Center has set an immediate fundraising goal of $150,000, enough to create an endowment to keep the Riford Center open for the next two years. The money would pay for the nominal fee the city charges the center to lease the building as well as paying the salaries of its three full-time employees.
“That money is to demonstrate to the city that we have the money set aside for two years and gives us time to find long-term funding,” Hunt said.
After securing funds for a short-term endowment, Friends of the Riford Center will work to create a $1 million endowment to fund the center for the long term, Hunt said.
“If that’s invested, it will keep the center running in perpetuity, we hope,” she said.
The Riford Center received some community help last year to improve its facility. The La Jolla Kiwanis Club paid for the paint to spruce up the center’s interior, and City Council President Scott Peters’ “Team Peters” provided labor along with help from the United States Marines and other volunteers. A La Jolla Eagle Scout recently redid the building’s front facade and the La Jolla Rotary Club has pledged funds to pay for new carpet. The Rotary Club also paid recently for an air conditioning system, which the center previously lacked.
The Friends of the Riford Center are hoping the May 6 open house will be the beginning of an even stronger community effort to help the center.
“If La Jolla can’t make this happen, then who the heck can?” Ahern said.
The May 6 “Rockin’ the Riford” event is open to the public. Call (858) 459-0831 for more information.