Zuckerberg, wife give $5 million to East Palo Alto health center

Ravenswood Family Health Center to begin construction as soon as this month with broad regional backing

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, are donating $5 million toward construction of a new health center in East Palo Alto.

The announcement was made Wednesday on behalf of the couple during a ground-breaking ceremony for the Ravenswood Family Health Center. Zuckerberg and Chan were unable to attend.

Zuckerberg and Chan are the most recent donors among many Silicon Valley dignitaries, businesses and organizations that have contributed to the $29 million project. So far, $21.6 million has been raised to fund the construction.

The 38,000-square-foot facility will house all health services except for administration. The Zuckerberg/Chan donation will cover the final costs for building the facility. Another $7 million is needed for equipment and furnishing after the construction is completed.

Construction could begin in a month, pending approval of permits by the city, Ravenswood Health Center CEO Luisa Buada said. The center is expected to open in spring 2015.

Since 2001, Ravenswood has provided comprehensive medical, dental and mental health services in East Palo Alto out of portable buildings at 1798-A Bay Road in the city's industrial zone, surrounded by car repair and sheet-metal shops. About 97 percent of the health center's clients are ethnic minorities and 93 percent live at or below the poverty line, East Palo Alto Mayor Laura Martinez said. Of its 150-member staff, 45 percent are hired from the community, making the center one of the largest employers of East Palo Alto residents in the city.

The new facility will double Ravenswood's service capacity from 11,000 to 22,000 patients per year. It will have 58 exam rooms, 13 behavioral health counseling rooms and will include a laboratory, imaging and mammography capabilities, optometry exams and pharmacy services.

The center will also support the expansion of residency programs in pediatrics, internal medicine and family practice, Buada said.

The announcement and ground-breaking was met with cheers and applause in a white tent at the new site, which is located at 1885 Bay Road near Pulgas Avenue. The location is across the street and about a block south of the current center.

The new facility is a far cry from the days when pediatric vaccinations were conducted from the back of a pickup truck, said Chris Dawes, president and CEO of Lucile Packard Children's Hospital and a member of Ravenswood's advisory council.

Dawes became involved in helping develop the original Ravenswood Center after helping a Packard Hospital pediatric fellow's project to vaccinate East Palo Alto children in 1998. He and the student drove around to apartments and offered the vaccinations from the back of the truck.

"It made me a bit nervous. I thought, 'There's got to be a better way to do this,'" he recalled. He joined a blue-ribbon task force to create Ravenswood. CEO Luisa Buada had initially planned to stay on as a consultant for three months, but she stayed on to build the Belle Haven Clinic in East Menlo Park, the Center for Health Promotion, which offers classes and programs for clients with chronic illnesses, and Ravenswood Family Dentistry.

"Are you tingling? This is so exciting for each and every one of us," Congresswoman Jackie Speier, (D-San Mateo), said.

The center received $5 million for construction from the Health Resources and Services Administration, which got the money through the Affordable Care Act, she said.

Congresswoman Anna Eshoo (D-Palo Alto), who has long been involved in supporting Ravenswood, hailed the project as a long-needed community resource.

"This has been the most underserved community in our region and we all knew it, and something had to be done about it," she said.

Major donors include the David & Lucile Packard Foundation, Palo Alto Medical Foundation/Sutter Health, Silicon Valley Community Foundation, John and Sue Sobrato and the Sobrato Family Foundation, John and Jill Freidenrich, Dick and Sue Levy, and Gordon Russell and Tina McAdoo.

What is community worth to you?
Support local journalism.


Like this comment
Posted by Raymond
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jan 23, 2014 at 10:39 am

I saw this going on yesterday, as I passed and wondered, why as an EPA resident, I wasn't invited.

Like this comment
Posted by Thanks to the donors
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 23, 2014 at 10:45 am

Thanks to all the generous donors that have helped to make this building possible. There is so much wealth in this community that I would think that the 7 million required to outfit the facility should not be a problem. Multi-billionaires probably don't even notice any drop in their portfolios when they give several million dollars.

I have been giving to the Ravenswood Family Health Center for years because I believe that access to affordable health care is a basic human right and I have really been disgusted with our countries failure to understand this.

I was surprised when Zuckerberg hosted a fundraiser for Chris Christy last year as Christy promoted the de-funding of planned parenthood. This was a sharmeful thing to do All women deserve to have the services that planned parenthood provided to those financially disadvantaged women. Planned Parenthood does more than help women make decisions about their reproductive rights. Many women will suffer needlessly with the likes of Christy making decisions about who receives healthcare.

America is a "so called civilized country" but frankly the world is baffled about why we can't take care of our people. Where are the values of so many people?

Come to think of it, I was amazed that the PA City Council can't figure out what kinds of things their city values. The values in this town as well as the whole country have slipped quite a bit in the last couple of decades.

Hey, some of you super wealthy, how about stepping up to the plate to provide the rest of the bucks needed to finish this facility?

Thanks Mark and Priscilla for keeping the ball rolling along with the others who have stepped up to support this fine and well needed family health center.

Like this comment
Posted by Taking More from Palo Alto?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 23, 2014 at 12:16 pm

[Post removed.]

Like this comment
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jan 23, 2014 at 12:39 pm

Hmmm is a registered user.

[Post removed.]

Like this comment
Posted by gail RN
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 23, 2014 at 1:53 pm

This is good news and thank you Mr. Zuckerberg and Ms Chan.

Like this comment
Posted by OPar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 23, 2014 at 1:56 pm

This is great.

Re: Zuckerberg and Chris Christie. Zuckerberg's PAC is all about protecting Facebook's interest, but he doesn't know what he's doing. Guy's not a politician--it doesn't pay to alienate the Democrats, particularly when you're based in California.

Next up, maybe our local plutocrats can help fund better schools in EPA and East Menlo.

Like this comment
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jan 23, 2014 at 3:02 pm

Hmmm is a registered user.

^^Great comment, OPar. Or maybe - gasp! - all Menlo Park students can be educated together.

Like this comment
Posted by gona
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Jan 23, 2014 at 3:09 pm

gonna tell zuck about ufo's .

Like this comment
Posted by moi
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 23, 2014 at 5:03 pm

Dear Palo Alto Online,

If there's a next time, please use the title, "Chan, husband give $X million to (fill in the blank)".

Like this comment
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jan 23, 2014 at 8:13 pm

Hmmm is a registered user.

Raymond, all residents were invited. You must not have read about it in time.

Like this comment
Posted by palo alto parent
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 23, 2014 at 8:51 pm

This is lovely and generous. Many people will benefit from these generous gifts.

Like this comment
Posted by DC
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 24, 2014 at 1:47 pm

Perhaps we should ask if Public Relations companies are donating their time to get the word out re assisting schools/clinics/childcare options - about who needs what, and how much each piece of the project will cost - and presenting it to those able to contribute?

And not just to the super-rich (tho I do believe in "noblesse oblige"), but to residents of the Bay Area as a whole. We "ordinary types" might be more inclined to contribute from information that is well-presented by reliable sources.

PS As long as someone who knows what they're doing coordinates the projects, NOT like Palo Alto handled the Mitchell Park Library debacle.

Like this comment
Posted by Schmuckerberg
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Jan 24, 2014 at 7:59 pm

Something tells me this is the idea of Priscilla, Zuck's wife.

Like this comment
Posted by alexP
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jan 25, 2014 at 3:34 pm

What is really needed in EPA is money for building a better school district.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

All your news. All in one place. Every day.

A new home in Redwood City for Mademoiselle Colette's croissants
By Elena Kadvany | 1 comment | 8,336 views

Electric vs Gas Heat: Which wins?
By Sherry Listgarten | 18 comments | 3,900 views

Lights Out! Foods to Snuggle With in the Dark
By Laura Stec | 0 comments | 1,716 views

What to do with all those cardboard boxes
By Cheryl Bac | 3 comments | 1,546 views

Some answers, please, PG&E
By Diana Diamond | 6 comments | 893 views


Race Results Are In

Thank you for joining us at the 35th annual Moonlight Run & Walk! All proceeds benefit the Palo Alto Weekly Holiday fund, supporting local nonprofits serving children and families.

Click for Race Results