Corporate Know-How Helps St. Barnabas Senior Center

Times Staff Writer

It's a different kind of merger: social welfare and big business.

America's corporations seem to have developed a social conscience that has resulted in a new liaison involving personal contributions of time as well as corporate funds.

That brings us to Meno Lake and Ray Herzog.

Lake, the retired chairman of Transamerica Occidental Life Insurance, is involved on the boards of the YMCA, Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center, United Way, Central City Assn. and the USC School of Public Administration. He is trimming some of his volunteer activities, mostly in the business community, because "I was coming downtown five days a week like I did before I retired."

Herzog retired from Arco, where he was in government relations, last August when the company offered a retirement package so attractive "I couldn't afford to keep working." He became active in fund raising for the Republican Party, and he signed up, as did Meno Lake, as a volunteer with the Executive Service Corps of Southern California, a nonprofit organization to provide management consulting services to other nonprofit organizations.

When the Rev. Richard C. Hall, director of St. Barnabas Senior Center, decided he needed specialized consulting services, he contacted the Executive Service Corps. It was agreed that Lake and Herzog would work as consultants to Hall.

And that's how they came to be grappling with St. Barnabas' problem: $2.3 million.

That's the amount needed to build a new center in the MacArthur Park area for St. Barnabas Senior Center, which currently provides more than 200,000 social services for nearly 20,000 senior citizens from quarters on the fifth floor of a building at 1725 West 6th St. The land has been acquired for the new center--and that, too, is a story.

Dick Hall explained that the St. Barnabas Senior Center and the city reached agreement on a block grant whereby the city would provide the land for the center.

The Good News

"But because we haven't begun in the time the city specified, two years, we have a letter from the city that authorizes us to pay $227,000 for the parcel," Hall said. "I guess the good news here is that we do have the money to buy the property."

That leaves $2.3 million to be raised for the $2.6 million project, a three-story center that would provide ground-floor entry to clients in need of food, health and social services.

That kind of fund-raising program, in the view of business consultants Herzog and Lake, requires a beefed-up board of directors with expertise in raising money. To that end they are recruiting selected members of the business community for the St. Barnabas Center board.

"I had three appointments on that today," Lake said recently. "I am hopeful. These were my first contacts and none has turned me down. It is a question of who from the (business) organization will join our St. Barnabas board. I contacted individuals I've known for years. Some are totally overloaded on boards, but they are interested in having the firm participate."

Involvement Corps

Interestingly, Lake, while heading Transamerica Occidental formed an involvement corps through which employees are encouraged to perform community service. The corps has helped St. Barnabas Center with a picnic and contributions of a TV set, a sewing machine and non-perishable food for its emergency closet.

But Hall, Herzog and Lake agree that business acumen is the first need, and improved image and better public relations the second.

"We discovered in our attempts in capital fund raising that we didn't have name recognition," Hall said. "Our clients know about us--but our clients are the old and poor.

"We haven't abandoned the project for a new building; we need our own facilities. For one thing we have $53,300 going into leases and parking that would otherwise go to programs for our clients. In addition, a normal office building is not designed for the delivery of social services to senior citizens. We need space for food delivery, medical examining rooms and counseling services."

Benefit of Business Experience

"My thrust, through board membership, is that the board needs the benefit of business experience," Lake said. "If we were to get somebody from Arco, for instance, Arco might up its support also."

Hall explained that to date the Arco Foundation has provided the largest single contribution to the St. Barnabas project.

"We had several responses from large foundations urging us to reapply once we had our first money (private contributions)," Hall said. "I guess you need to not need the money before you can get it. Nobody wants to be the first major donor. That hurts."

In changing the St. Barnabas Center's public image, advisers Herzog and Lake are playing down its affiliation with Episcopal Community Services in favor of highlighting its work in meeting the growing needs of impoverished seniors in the MacArthur Park area it serves.

"We have the heaviest concentration of low-income senior citizens in the county," Hall said. "We have almost 20,000 unduplicated clients.

More Tolerable

"Money doesn't solve any problems but it makes them all more tolerable. The seniors we see have difficulty in finding adequate housing, good nutrition, medical care. The failure to receive a Supplemental Security Insurance or Social Security check can be catastrophic. There also are a certain group of recurring problems, including those of getting mugged and robbed and raped."

Meanwhile, the state of California has given St. Barnabas a strong vote of confidence: a $115,000 Department of Health Services grant for an Alzheimer's disease diagnosis and treatment center, a cooperative venture with County-USC Medical Center that also would involve Good Samaritan Hospital's Neurobehavior Clinic and the USC Andrus Gerontology Center.

"We would have a capacity of 200 Alzheimer patients," Hall said, obviously excited at the new program's promise. "We are to identify and care for Alzheimer patients, not do research. We will operate three clinics--medical, psychological and social work, with a case management plan for each patient."

The program would not be residential, Hall said, but a community-based program of comprehensive care. And would the proposed new St. Barnabas Senior Center be adequate for such an expansion?

"Yes, we'd have room," Hall said. "The proposed building is designed for 50% expansion. An adult day health care center has to be on the first floor."

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