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Riford Center names new director to lead charge to future

The Riford Center has a new acting executive director: Ron Jones, “the voice of La Jolla.”

Jones, a member of the Riford Center Board of Directors, replaces Sarah Peters who had served as director since 2008.

Jones, active in community service and a high-profile local entertainer and emcee/DJ well known for his “radio” voice, will lead the expansion of activities and membership at the Riford. His first order of business: continue the transformation of the institution’s image from “senior” to “community” center.

“We need a buy-in by the community,” said Jones. “It’s been known as a senior center. It ain’t any more. It’s the center for the La Jolla community.”

Jim Walker, chairman of the Riford Center’s dozen-member board, noted Riford’s metamorphosis, which is physical as well as philosophical, is ongoing.

The renovation of the center’s kitchen as a cooking classroom will be completed by the end of the year, enabling the addition of many new classes, demonstrations and food- and wine-related social events.

The kitchen renovation is part of a larger program to update the Riford to serve all generations of adult La Jollans.

Walker said the new and improved kitchen, the core of the Riford’s revamp, will be unveiled after the first of the year.

“We’re going to launch it with a kitchen shower like a baby shower, with people bringing gifts and signing a registry in January,” he said. “It will be unique. There will be no other place like it around town. It’s a way for the center to become really integrated into the community for all ages of adults.”

Walker added Jones was the perfect choice to head up the new and improved Riford Center.

He said, “Ron is such a valuable addition — he knows everybody. He’s excited about making this a true community center.”

Jones intends to hit the ground full speed ahead.

“I’m going to take it and run with it,” he said of his new role. “I have extensive plans for all sorts of activities. It sounds nebulous but there’s great ambition — and thought — behind it.”

Jones added the new emphasis on cuisine at the center is no accident.

“We have people who are internationally known for their cookbooks here in La Jolla,” he said. “We’re going to bring them over for classes. The kitchen’s also going to be extremely valuable when it comes to catering special events.”

Plans are to convert the center’s great room into an area specifically for the hosting of large group events like wedding receptions.

“People who can’t afford a hotel, they can come here,” said Jones. “We can also host other groups in town. It’s going to be a vital hub of La Jolla activities.”

Florence Riford donated the building at 6811 La Jolla Blvd. to the city of San Diego in 1972 and provided funds to support its operations. Since then, the center has provided a number of valuable social services to seniors and others in the jewel at its 5,000-square-foot building with a large main room and meeting rooms surrounded by an outdoor courtyard.