The Bob A. Ross Foundation has pledged $1 million to support the expansion of Openhouse programs and services to meet the diverse needs of thousands of Bay Area lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) older adults. The agency’s new community facilities at 65 Laguna Street will be named the Bob Ross LGBT Senior Center in recognition of the life and work of Bob Ross, who co-founded the Bay Area Reporter and galvanized a community-wide response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
“This transformational pledge will help realize our vision to serve all LGBT seniors who will look to Openhouse in the years ahead for a range of support that meets their unique needs,” said Openhouse Executive Director Seth Kilbourn. “This gift is a wonderful affirmation of the strength and vitality of seniors in our community, many of whom survived for decades by staying invisible. We’re deeply honored to partner with the Bob Ross Foundation and recognize the legacy of a truly transformational community pioneer.”
The new Openhouse community facility at 65 Laguna Street will be named the Bob Ross LGBT Senior Center in recognition of this gift and Ross’ transformational contributions to the LGBT community. The pledge is the largest single gift in the organization’s history.
“A principal concern of Bob’s during his lifetime was the need for housing and services for LGBT seniors,” said Thomas E. Horn, president and trustee of the Bob Ross Foundation. “He supported Openhouse in in its early days and would have appreciated its well-considered and adaptive approach to meet the unique and pressing needs of LGBT seniors. He also would have appreciated its efficient business model and client centered approach. I hope this gift inspires others to invest in Openhouse and the community’s capacity to support ourselves and each other.”
The gift builds on Ross’ legacy of connecting people, building awareness and strengthening organizations to address urgent community needs.
“Bob was a pioneer in the early days of the HIV/AIDS epidemic when government agencies were not responding and was one of the leaders in bringing the LGBT community together to build allies and mobilize a largely volunteer driven community infrastructure to care for thousands of people throughout the epidemic,” Horn added. “Openhouse has been a catalyst for developing a similar, community-based model driven by volunteers and service partnership to ensure our community’s health as we all face the challenges that come with getting older.”
In an increasingly expensive city, the Bob Ross LGBT Senior Center will be a permanent home for Openhouse and a sustainable community resource for LGBT seniors, their caregivers, family and friends to stay healthy and live independently in community.
“This deeply generous gift significantly strengthens our capacity to deliver on our core vision to ensure every LGBT senior has access to safe and stable housing, care providers that understand their lives and opportunities to stay engaged in their community,” said Openhouse Board President, Bill Scherer. “We’re proud to share and continue Bob Ross’ legacy, while adding critical momentum to our work and breaking new ground for LGBT philanthropy in the Bay Area.”
Openhouse continues to raise funds for tenant improvements at both 65 Laguna, expected to open later this year, and the new program center included in the new building to be constructed at 75 Laguna St.
Over the next decade, the number of LGBT people in San Francisco who are 60 and older is predicted to increase by 25% percent to almost 30,000. While the city includes an array of services and housing options for older adults, LGBT seniors are only 20% as likely as their heterosexual peers to get the support they need. Largely without children and traditional family support that non-LGBT seniors depend on, LGBT older adults rely more heavily on community.
“As we get older, many LGBT people experience a sense of growing invisibility,” said Community member Margie Adam. “What would draw me out would be a set of services and activities that celebrate and rekindle our precious LGBT life experiences. Openhouse is already a national model in this regard and will be able to provide many more opportunities to keep us connected by expanding their programming in a space designed for older adults.”
The Bay Area Reporter story on this donation can be accessed on line at http://ebar.com/news/article.php?sec=news&article=71224
About Bob Ross and the Bob A. Ross Foundation
Bob Ross (1934 – 2003) was the founder and former publisher of the Bay Area Reporter and a leading gay rights and AIDS activist in San Francisco. As a businessman, publisher, political activist, board member and philanthropist, Ross personified community leadership. In addition to co-founding the B.A.R. with Paul Bentley in 1971. Ross also participated in the founding of the Tavern Guild, founded Gay Comix, and helped transform the city’s gay community into a vital and visible regional power. He established the foundation in 1996 to give to a broad portfolio of non-profits, which the foundation has continued ever since.
Thomas E. Horn, an attorney and president of the foundation, was a close friend of Bob Ross and is Publisher Emeritus of the Bay Area Reporter.
Founded in San Francisco in 1998, Openhouse enables San Francisco Bay Area lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) seniors to overcome the unique challenges they face as they age by providing critically needed housing, direct services, and community programs. Openhouse works to reduce isolation and empower LGBT seniors to improve their health, well-being and economic security. To learn more about Openhouse please visit www.openhouse-sf.org and facebook.com/openhousesf.