Nelsons to lead hospital capital campaign
THIS IS A RENDERING of what the new wing would look like.
Marcia and Gary Nelson, founders of Nelson Staffing, are working to ensure Sonoma Valley Hospital’s emergency services continue to thrive.
The couple is chairing an ambitious capital campaign to raise millions for the district hospital, money that will be used on equipment and other upgrades, primarily in the emergency room and operating suites.
“Basically, what we’re trying to ensure is that we have an emergency room for everyone in this Valley, whether you’re rich or poor,” Gary Nelson said. “I think it’s something everyone will benefit from, every single person.”
Marcia and Gary Nelson are well known for their philanthropic support of a variety of causes. But Sonoma Valley Hospital’s emergency room became their pet project after the facility was instrumental in saving their son’s life.
“We’ve supported lots of causes, but this transcends everything,” Gary Nelson said.
It was 30 years ago, and Marcia Nelson went in to check on their 3-month-old son, Justin. “He was blue and had stopped breathing. She panicked,” Gary Nelson said.
Marcia Nelson had taken an infant CPR class at the hospital prior to Justin’s birth, and immediately began mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. She then poured the baby into the car and headed to the ER, where doctors diagnosed him with Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, a condition that is often fatal, as the name implies.
“In order to resuscitate him, they had to slice his ankles open to start an IV,” Gary Nelson said, adding that if his wife had needed to drive out of town for emergency care, or wait for an ambulance, Justin wouldn’t have survived.
“Now he’s 30, and in London going to the Royal Veterinary College. He’s married and has a 1-1/2-year-old baby,” Gary Nelson said.
The couple sought to lead by example by contributing $3 million to the emergency department earlier this summer, but not before they thoroughly vetted the hospital, its administrative team and the board of directors. After numerous meetings and a careful review of the facility’s finances, they agreed to lead the capital campaign.
“I think you have to have confidence in the board and the leadership before you invest. You want to make sure it’s viable and sustainable,” Gary Nelson said. “We did our due diligence. The hospital is going in the right direction because it has the right leadership with (CEO) Kelly (Mather) and (CFO) Rick Reid.”
The campaign will augment the new wing at the hospital, which is currently under construction to bring the hospital into compliance with state seismic laws. The new wing, which will house the emergency department on the first floor and a surgery center on the second floor, is being funded by the $35 million general obligation bond voters passed in 2008. But that money can only be used on construction, not to purchase needed medical equipment.
“If it’s not nailed down, a revenue bond won’t cover it,” said Peter Hohorst, president of the Sonoma Valley Health Care District board.
The campaign will support the emergency room, as well as auxiliary emergency services such as the laboratory and operating suites. Gary Nelson explained these services are critical for delivering top-notch emergency care, but are also necessary to bring money into the hospital long-term.
“The ER is one of the only departments in the hospital that’s not profitable,” he said. “We have to have the revenue generators, like surgery, to support the ER.”
Mather said the hospital only obtains about 28 percent of the Valley’s surgical market share currently, a figure it hopes to increase by attracting more surgeons to practice in the Valley through an efficient and well-equipped surgical department.
“We’re not sure what’s going to happen, but failure is not an option,” Hohorst said.
Details of the campaign are still developing, including how much exactly the group seeks to raise from donors. It will be at least $11.5 million, the amount needed to complete the new wing with state-of-the-art equipment. Donations are already coming in, but the Nelsons plan to build a committee of Valley residents who will work on attracting significant donations by October of 2013, when the new wing will be completed.
“It’s not one person, it’s not one couple. This is going to be accomplished by a lot of people,” Gary Nelson said. “In my vision, if we pull this thing off, we will have something of tremendous value to the community that will last for years and years.”
The group will work closely with the Sonoma Valley Hospital Foundation and its executive director Harmony Plenty, who will take over long-term fundraising goals once the campaign wraps up next year.
“We’re very excited to see the people in the community who are stepping up for this,” Mather said, adding that it would not be possible without the Nelsons support. “They kicked off our success. Their ($3 million) gift told the community that they believed in us and we’re credible.”
For more information about the capital campaign or to make a contribution, contact Plenty at 935-5432 or firstname.lastname@example.org.