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Riford launches hip makeover

The Riford Center is hosting an open house and shower from 7 to 9 p.m. Jan. 21 to showcase more than $150,000 in renovations to the recently dedicated Dorothy Reasner Kitchen.

Sponsored by Reasner’s daughter, philanthropist Kaye Woltman, the remodeled kitchen features state-of-the-art equipment and spacious facilities suitable for cooking classes, culinary demonstrations and food preparation for catered events.

Now Executive Director Ron Jones is depending on the community to stock the kitchen with cookware, flatware, dishes and appliances.

“This is a difficult time to be asking,” Jones said, “but this is La Jolla’s community center and it has to look good, it has to be world-class.”

Jones, who joined the center in October, said the kitchen makeover is just the start of a new look and feel for “The Riford,” the moniker he’s given what was formerly known as The Riford Senior Center.

“For years, (we) have been wanting to expand on the age thing,” Jones said. “If I’m going to be successful in luring in a new demographic, I can’t call it that.” He said he’s amazed to note there are still folks in town who think the blue-awninged building at 6811 La Jolla Blvd. is a residential facility.

With more than 78 million baby boomers between the ages of 55 and 64 who don’t see themselves as “seniors,” Jones said The Riford has to reinvent itself to attract active, vital adults, many of them empty nesters and retirees, living in La Jolla.

Jones’ vision includes revamping everything from the building to the programs to the scheduling

“It’s a daytime place,” Jones said. “It has been for years. That has to stop. If I’m going to be viable, I have to expand the hours of operation to bring in the crowd that works all day. I’m looking at this place being very heavily utilized from morning to night.”

Expanded programming

In order to attract a more diverse membership, Jones has applied his hipster creativity and extensive knowledge of who’s who in La Jolla to develop an eclectic lineup of programs, classes, lectures and events.

“I’m broad-basing it,” Jones said. “Instead of ‘Alzheimer’s and What It Means to You,’ I’m looking for something more pop culture-ish.”

The vanguard of evening programming will be local masseur and nutritionist Alex Spinos, who will give

a presentation and lead a discussion on UFOs in February.

Jones would like to see The Riford become something of a hot spot for the arts. To that end, he has arranged for classes by sculptor Angel Carrasco and artist Judy Shufro.

“These programs are different,” Jones said, “because one, sculpture has never been offered, and two, they are unintimidating courses, accessible for everyone.”

Members can also get involved with theater by participating in The Riford’s Reader’s Theatre, which will perform Arthur Miller’s “A View From the Bridge” on March 22 under the direction of John Tessmer and Davida Huchel.

Also in the works is planning for a concert series, wine tastings, career development, belly dancing, plus art and music classes. Jones said he welcomes proposals for all manners of activities.

“La Jolla is filled with incredibly talented people who don’t have a venue,” he said. “If you don’t see something on the calendar of interest to you, let me know and I’ll make it happen.”

New future for old fixture

“You have to appreciate the history to appreciate the future,” Jones said of the center’s significance to La Jolla.

Built in the ‘50s, the property first housed a nursing home, and then served as a social club affiliated with the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. In the 1960s, Florence Riford bought the building, where she hosted her bridge club. In 1970, Riford created a trust to oversee operation of the facilities as a clubhouse for those 50 and older living in La Jolla. Over the years, it was managed by a series of nonprofit organizations, including the Salvation Army. As endowment funds dwindled, Friends of the Riford Center was formed in 2007 to sustain the center.

“It’s a community asset that absolutely hasn’t been utilized to its capacity,” Jones said.

The challenge in implementing change, said Jones, is multipronged: securing funding (the center subsists on $100 annual membership fees and private donations), creating innovative programming that will appeal to active adults, shedding the “senior” image and educating the community about the resources available at The Riford.

“People need each other,” Jones said. “What I’m looking at here is a way for people to come together. I want this to be the center of the community.”

You’re invited!

  • What: Riford Center Kitchen Shower
  • When: 7 to 9 p.m. Jan. 21
  • Where: 6811 La Jolla Blvd.
  • Online: www.rifordcenter.com.
  • R.S.V.P.: (858) 459-0831
  • Registries: www.macys.com or www.williams-sonoma.com. Listed under first name ‘The,’ last name ‘Riford Center.’